Spiritan Life aims at being a forum for Ongoing Formation
- tlirougli tlie shared experiences of confreres,
- through reflection on these experiences,
- through the inspiration of our founders, our tradition
and the demands of mission today.
Haroldo Alves (Portuguese version)
Alain Mbonzima (French version)
Plniiip Massawe (English version)
Gaudence Mushi (Layout)
John Kwofie (Representative of General Council)
A. Mbonzima, J. D'Ambrosio, H. de Blacam, J. Flynn,
J. McFadden, M.Huck, A. dos Santos Moreira, JJ. Boeglin,
J. M. Gelmetti and H. Alves.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Origin of Brothers in the Congregation 6
My Personal Experience in the Spiritan Congregation
as a Brother 37
A Spiritan Brother at the Service of Mission 40
Jean Claude Kibinda
A Letter from Brother Oliver Dowling 48
Being a Brother in a Clerical Missionary Congregation 51
A Missionary in Brussels 55
My Presence as a Spiritan in Refugee Camps in Tanzania ... 60
My Journey to the Religious Life 64
A Letter from Brother Francis Sullivan 73
Spiritan Brothers: Some Reflexions from the Group
of Pakistan 75
Spiritan Religious for fifty-five years 77
Missionary's life journey in France 79
Spiritan Life and Vocation 81
Enlarged General Council, Ariccia 2008
AS this issue of Spiritan Life about and by Spiritan Brothers goes
to press we have just heard the sad news of the passing on of
Brother Francis Sullivan, an American confrere who has long
been appointed to Tanzania. Brother Francis made a deep impact a cou-
ple of years ago on a gathering of confreres in Spiritan House, Arusha.
It was during the canonical visitation of the General Council to the then
East African Province. The visitors were meeting with the confreres of
that area. An intense conversation was going on about organization, re-
structuring and pluri-national circumscriptions. When the conversation
was at its most intense. Brother Francis intervened. "What are we doing
about Darfur?" he said. Brother Francis was 88 then and I am not sure
he would know the expression 'sound-bite', but what he said was the
perfect 'sound-bite' and rocked the assembly. Some of us laughed, em-
barrassed, thinking that the old man had not been following the con-
versation about organization. With the interpretation of another confrere
who knew Brother Francis better than most, the assembly understood
that Francis was making a statement and asking a question. Hundreds of
thousands of people were living and dying in desperate conditions of
hunger and insecurity in Darfur and here we were, a gathering of mis-
sionaries dedicated to the poor, talking about the organization of the
Congregation. Of course to paraphrase an idea voiced once in another
situation; he was right and the confreres were not wrong. There was a
need to talk about organization at that moment and that conversation
bore much fruit later on.
The interesting thing about the intervention of Brother Francis was that
what he said stayed in the minds of everybody present at that meeting.
At the Generalate we remembered it as soon as we heard of his death.
Even more interesting is that at the time of his death a Spiritan team from
the Union of Circumscriptions of East Africa has been visiting Southern
Sudan trying to work out where and in what ministry we Spiritans can be-
come involved there. Brother Francis will surely be intervening in the
heavenly forum on behalf of this project.
When we began to prepare this issue of Spiritan Life the plan was to
ask living brothers to write their story or something about being a
brother in the Congregation. We are proud to present a short beautiful
letter from Brother Francis as well as many other contributions from
confreres who are brothers from many different parts of the world. We
see this issue as an opportunity to share with the wider membership of
the Congregation some of the riches which brothers shared with us in the
Generalate when we sent out questionnaires about how to promote the
brother's vocation in the Congregation.
Apart from the diversity of the ministries brothers who write in this
issue are involved in, many other aspects of who the brothers are
emerge from the pages. The balance, grace and vision with which some
of the older ones have lived their lives of sacrifice in a Congregation
which has not always behaved correctly towards them is astounding.
Some of their perceptions are very important and helpful to us all to
think about our Congregation. In reply to one of the questionnaires a
confrere stated (a priest I think) that in our reflection about the broth-
ers we needed to remember that not only the existence of the brothers
but the existence of the whole Congregation was at stake. The danger
for us all as religious missionaries is that we would be totally absorbed
by a clerical function and lose the heart of what it means to be Spiritan.
Just as we prepare to send the text to the printers a book has appeared
called 'Clericalism, the end of priesthood' by a Jesuit author George
Wilson. Like Brother Francis the brothers who are the authors of the
stories in this Spiritan Life while telling their story simply and beauti-
fully, also give us some warnings which may help us to be more faith-
ful to our Spiritan vocation.
Bishop Edward Barron is mentioned once again as being at the start of
the discovery for Libermann that Brothers were essential to mission.
The need for Brothers imposed itself as it were and of course up to this
day they have continued to be a key element wherever mission is going
on. Some will remind us that Claude Francois Poullart des Places did not
think of having Brothers and neither did Libermann at first. This is just
as well. Like St. Paul, Libermann, once he got involved in mission de-
veloped his spirituality and theology to make sense of it all. The deci-
sion to have brothers in the Congregation was not an ideological one
but rather emerged as an obvious essential component of a mission team
which Barron was trying to put together with Libermann's help.
We are conscious that this issue of Spiritan Life could be much more
ample with more stories. There is no implicit judgment on any story that
we have not included. A number of constraints prevented us including
many more contributions. We like to think of this as one contribution to
remind us all of what Brothers are doing and could do if we had more in
the Congregation and hope that Provinces where brothers have been nu-
merous would make sure that their stories are documented and their his-
tory is written.
THE ORIGIN OF BROTHERS
IN THE CONGREGATION
In this interesting and rich article Br Carmo writes on the genesis of
Brothers in the Congregation and shares with us how laymen took part
in the missionary work of evangelisation,
The Congregation of the Holy Spirit under the protection of the Im-
maculate Heart of Mary came into being with the fusion of two
apostolic societies: that of the Seminary of the Holy Spirit, and
that of the Society of the Most Holy Heart of Mary.
Claude Francis Poullart des Places had founded the Seminary of the Holy
Spirit in 1703. This work was to busy itself with the formation of priests,
coming mainly from the ranks of the lower classes. There was no ques-
tion of a religious congregation' so to speak, and the founder did not fore-
see the training of Religious. However, from the outset, lay people took
part in his work, acting as tailors and cooks. They lived in the Seminary,
and their way of life was just like that of the priests of the society, because
Poullart des Places had laid down for them an hour and a half of daily
prayer, with attendance at Mass, and they were not always paid for their
work. These lay folk were living according to a rule which resembled
that of the future Auxiliary Brothers. However, we still cannot here talk
about real religious life, which only came about through the organisa-
tional skills of Libermann and Schwindenhammer.
' Henri Le Floch judged the work of Poullart des Places to be the beginnings of a Reli-
gious Congregation. Cf. Henri le Floch - Une Vocation et unefondation au siecle de
Louis XIV, Claude-Frangois Poullart des Places, Paris, 1915, 330ss.
In the present study, I propose to describe, first of all, the steps taken by
Libermann for the inclusion of Brothers into the groups of priests sent to
the Missions. We shall look at the part played in all of this by Liber-
mann's colleagues, Le Vavasseur and Tisserant. We shall also study the
influence of Bishop Edward Barron, the Vicar Apostolic of the Two
Guineas, who met Libermann at a providential moment in time. I believe
that I can say that the Brothers were adjoined to a missionary society
founded by priests for priests.
It is now 1843. Bishop Edward Barron, while on his way to Paris, asks
Libermann for priests and Brothers to work as missionaries in his Apos-
tolic Prefecture of West Africa.
Libermann was taken by surprise, because he had not yet trained any
Brothers. However there were many delays at Bordeaux while the first
group of priests were getting ready for embarkation. This fact allowed
Libermann to find an alternative answer to the problem; certain local
trades people offered to accompany the priests on their venture to Africa.
In this study, we shall see how ordinary men had that courage to set out
on a difficult mission, and so brought into being the vocation of the Spir-
Parti: The First Steps
In the 1830s, in Paris, the idea of starting a missionary society which
would work in their countries of origin, was thought of by two seminar-
ians, Frederick le Vavasseur and Eugene Tisserant. Both were friends of
Libermann. The former came from one of the important families of the
island of Bourbon, known today as Reunion. He well knew the unbear-
able conditions under which the slaves of his father and other planters
struggled. Tisserant's mother was from Haiti, and he described a similar
situation there to Libermann.
After much reflection and discussion on the part of Le Vavasseur, Tis-
serant and Libermann, the latter agreed to oversee the Work for the Black
1 . 1 The Common Intuition of Le Vavasseur and Libermann.
As soon as he had finished his priestly formation, Le Vavasseur left for
Reunion, in February 1842. In the November of the same year, Tisserant
left for Haiti.
They wrote to Libermann, who had remained in Paris. In their letters,
there was much said about the orientation of the new society founded for
the evangelisation of the slaves.
In the letters of Tisserant, there is no reference to accepting Brothers into
the Society. On the other hand, Le Vavasseur makes frequent mention of
this. In his view, the work of the mission needed Brothers so that the
priests could be more free to practise their particular ministry. The fol-
lowing letter was written some months after his arrival at Reunion:
"Brothers would be of immense benefit to us. Everywhere I encounter
poor old people, who need to be married because they are living in con-
cubinage. There is no chance to instruct them, no matter how well dis-
posed they are, because they live far from the nearest church. It is not
possible even to gather them together in one place, because they live at
a great distance from each other One missioner on his own cannot hope
to go and instruct these poor people, because he would spend the whole
day seeing only seven or eight people. He could be spending his time
doing more necessary things. If the priest had Brothers, they could go
and visit and instruct these poor old people and other persons dispersed
in the valleys and on the hills; (...) "''
In his capacity as co-Founder of the Work for the Black People, Le
Vavasseur had realised the importance of incorporating Brothers. He
brought this matter to Libermann's attention time and again, even though
he knew how open Libermann was to that idea, even if Libermann never
" Letter from Le Vavasseur to Libermann, of 27* September 1842 in NOTES ET DO-
CUMENTS relatifs a la vie et a I'oeuvre du Venerable Frangois-Marie-Paul Libermann,
pour distribution privee, Paris, vol. Ill, 1933, p. 520
spoke about it in his Provisional Rule of 1 840, in which he says, ''The
Congregation of Missionaries of the Most Holy Heart of Mary is a group
of Priests, who, in the name of and as sent by, Our Lord Jesus Christ, de-
vote themselves entirely to preaching his holy Gospel (...). ""'
The admission of Brothers into the Society of the Most Holy Heart of
Mary, signified then a change in the initial statutes of the work. How-
ever, in reality, it was only the concretisation of an intuition which Liber-
mann had had from the very beginning. See for example how he
describes the first novitiate of La Neuville, in a letter to Mr. Hale, a mer-
chant from Strasbourg, written on 5* October 1841: "I have only two
companions with me, and two Brothers who wish very much to be of serv-
ice to us, and later on go to help us in foreign lands. One of these two
good Brothers is of immense help to us; it is thanks to Providence that we
met him. "''""
So there were candidates wishing to be Brothers. But things are not yet
very clear. In the same letter, Libermann considers these "two Brothers "
as "employees" in the house of formation, who relieved the novices of
certain material tasks.''
'" Regie Provisoire , N.D. II, p.235
Libermann had first of all defined his society as existing for priests alone. We can
conclude this from the text of the Provisional Rule given to the first novices at La
Neuville in 1841. Nevertheless, our Venerable Father, during his conferences to the
novices, added a commentary to the first article of the same Rule, in order to say that the
society was formed of Priests and Brothers. CF. Fran9ois NICOLAS - Regie Provisoire
des missionaires de Libermann (la naissance d'un code de spiritualite missionaire). Texte
et commentaire, pro manuscripto, Mortain, 1967, 2-3.
In addition, we can verify fi-om a copy of a manuscript of Fr. Arragon, that there
were two kinds of candidates: "We only accept two kinds of people: 1^^ priests or those
who can one day be priests, 2"*^ lay people to be Brothers. " Athanase BOUCHARD et
Fran9ois NICOLAS - Synopse des deux Regies de Libermann precedee de la premiere
Regie Spiritaine. Texte integral et authentique, pro manuscripto, Paris, 1968, p. 168.
All the same, I maintain that the society was founded only for priests. Cf Andre
GUELLEC - La mission dufrere d'apres Libermann, in Spiritus, 13 -frere missionaire,
*^ Letter of Libermann to Mr. Hale, 5* October 1841, N.D. Ill, p.30
^ Cf Rene CHARRIER - Les Freres Courage, Memoire Spiritains 1, Paris, 1944, p. 18
While our Venerable Father remained in France responsible for the ori-
entation of the new missionary society, Le Vavasseur had already arrived
among the Black People. Libermann wished to know the first impres-
sions Le Vavasseur had about the country, and asked him: "What do you
think about Brothers? Will it be good for us to accept them into our So-
ciety? Would you know how to employ them in Reunion? Would they be
of any help to you in dealing with the local people? "^'^
The letter of Libermann with its abundance of questions had still not ar-
rived in Reunion when Le Vavasseur wrote on the same subject. It is as-
tonishing to see the agreement of thought on this question between the
missionary on Reunion and Libermann.
1.2 The Role of Brothers according to Le Vavasseur
In the letters sent to Libermann during the year 1 842, Le Vavasseur tried
to define the role of Brothers in the mission. He said there were two
things expected of them: a minimum of formation, and a good character
Le Vavasseur was not terribly bothered about the particular trade a
Brother would practise. He was more concerned about the quality of life
the Brother had, whether on the human or on the spiritual plane. For Le
Vavasseur, a Brother was primarily an auxiliary for the priest, and there-
fore ready to do pastoral work. In the last part of one of his letters to
Libermann, Le Vavasseur describes his work in the district of Sainte-
Suzanne. He speaks of helping the sick, the aged, and those who were
asking for Baptism. Le Vavasseur had employed a Creole to help him, but
regretted the fact that he had no Brothers. He wrote, "... and I hope that
out of these corrupt bodies will come innocent and glorious souls fit for
heaven. It is for just such a type of ministry that Brothers would be pre-
cious, but how holy they need to be for such a work! They need much
^* Letter of Libermann to Le Vavasseur, 9* June 1842, N.D. Ill, p.207
courage and zeal if they are to climb the mountains in the overpowering
heat and go to people who are half corrupt, brutish, coarse. For such
people it is necessary to repeat twenty times that there is only one God,
before they finally grasp it. It is even more urgent that they hear these
words from a holy person. The man bringing the Good News must have
in himself the essence of the apostolic spirit. But two or three good Broth-
ers, with that spirit, would be for us as good as two or three priests. They
must in addition be very capable of teaching catechism, because giving
the catechism to people like the Blacks is a thousand times more difficult
than preaching. " ''^
Le Vavasseur was certainly very optimistic! He would change with time,
for he was writing only at the beginning of his ministry on Reunion.
1 .3 A Different Point of View
In actual fact, within a few months, Le Vavasseur 's first enthusiasm had
waned. He had asked for at least one Brother who could practice a trade
and help priests in pastoral work. However, when Libermann offered him
somebody, Le Vavasseur began to object. This is how he replied to his
"As for Mr. Saint Albin, you think that he has by now arrived here. He
has not, and I swear I would give much for his non-appearance. You
seem to be fixed on the idea that I would welcome him into my commu-
nity. But you would soon change your attitude if you could even see for
a moment as I do how probable it is that he will not persevere here. It
will bring us great embarrassment with the people of Reunion, if they see
one of us turning out wrong. It will cause infinite damage in the minds
of the populace. "''"^
Letter of Le Vavasseur to Libermann, 13* December 1842, N. D. Ill, p.538
* Letter of Le Vavasseur to Libermann, 6* May 1843, N.D. VI, p.526
In another letter written in the following year, 1 844, Le Vavasseur did
not completely exclude the possibility of accepting Brothers, but he at-
tached many preconditions, and showed himself reluctant to allow them
to take part in pastoral ministry:
"Send one Brother, but make sure he is holy, and ready to confine him-
self to the material needs of the house and sacristy. He could also give
religious instruction to the seriously ill, those in danger of death, and to
certain old people who would be invited to the mission house. But no
more than that! It would be very inconvenient for us to have to give the
least public function to a Brother. "'^"^
Scarcely a few days later, in another letter, the missionary on Reunion in-
sisted on the same approach: "As for Reunion and the other colonies,
where a similar situation prevails, my attitude is very much more re-
strictive than formerly. Brothers here could not without the greatest in-
convenience take part in the sacred ministry. The most one could use
them for is to instruct especially the old people, the sick, and other such.
They could, for example, be very useful as regards the material side of the
mission, but it is necessary that they are holy. If you tell me that such
people are impossible to find, then I reply to you and ask you to send no-
body. (...) they must be very holy, and must have a way of life which
brings with it great reserve, and the prudence, I will not say of a serpent,
but of an angel. They must have at the same time a love which gives them
entry into all hearts, and opens all hearts to them. When you find such a
Brother, then send him. Unfortunately, we ourselves are not men of such
calibre, so how can we expect to find Brothers like that? As far as Re-
union goes. Brothers are of no use to us at all apart from looking after
the material needs of the communities. "^
The project of Le Vavasseur to receive Brothers was now enormously
narrowed, and Libermann will not dream any longer of sending him
Brothers. The Brothers would instead be sent to Guinea and Haiti. Nev-
*^ Letter of Le Vavasseur to Libermann, 5* July 1844, N.D. VI, p.612
'^ Letter of Le Vavasseur to Libermann, 13* July 1844, N.D. VI, p.614
ertheless, Libermann will write once again to his confrere on Reunion, a
year later, 1845, to ask him if he would like to receive any Brothers. "If
you give me your exact ideas on the subject, and if things work out, I will
try to prepare Brothers who will know how to do the different tasks ex-
pected of them "^^
Part 2. The First Missioners of the Holy Heart of Mary
Towards the end of 1 842, the Society of the Holy Heart of Mary got five
priests ready to go on mission. Initially, they had been prepared for the
islands of the French colonies, namely Haiti, Reunion and Mauritius.
Missionaries of the Holy Heart of Mary had already gone there.
However, the political situation had become more delicate. The French
State did not recognise the new Society. In addition, apart from having
no support in Metropolitan France, the Society was forbidden to enter
any of the French colonial territories.
At Christmastime 1 842, Libermann went up to Paris and spoke with Fr.
Desgenettes about this situation. It was a new trial for his little Society,
and he brought it to the Most Holy Heart of Mary, in the presence of the
director of the Archconfratemity of Our Lady of Victories.
The very next day, he returned to La Neuville. But almost immediately
Bishop Edward Barron, Vicar Apostolic of the Two Guineas arrived at the
church of Our Lady of Victories. He was looking for missionaries for his
Vicariate. "As soon as Bishop Barron had finished his devotions, Fr Des-
genettes offered our work for his Mission. The Bishop was very taken
with the idea and wished to meet Fr Libermann. "''"
"• Letter of Libermann to Le Vavasseur, 18* December 1845, N.D. VII, p.426
''" Following the Memorandum of Fr. Tisserant, N.D. IV, p.23
2. 1 The Incorporation of the Brothers
Before going to Paris and meeting Fr. Desgenettes, Bishop Barron had al-
ready made an appeal to the Secretary of Propaganda Fide in Rome. In
a short report dated 8^^ September 1842, the Vicar Apostolic had pre-
sented a series of instructions or proposals for the good development of
the mission in his Vicariate. After a number of observations concerning
material conditions, he continued:
"no. 13. The Prefect considers that the tribes have excellent dispo-
sitions for hearing the Gospel, and accepting it. But in order for the
Mission to succeed, it is absolutely essential to establish schools
among the people. In these establishments the teaching of Christian
Doctrine is not the only thing necessary. In addition, we must civilise
these people and attract them to ourselves and gain their confidence.
This can be done by using pictures, giving gifts, but above all by the
teaching of agriculture, and of mechanics, which will be of the great-
est utility to them. For example, we should train carpenters, black-
smiths, bakers, etc....
no. 14. One of the main reasons for my journey to Europe is to be
able to introduce all these manual trades among the local popula-
no. 19 The most sure way of making this Mission prosperous and
permanent is to confide it to a body ofmissioners, who have also lay
Brothers, able to impart the various mechanical trades; """"^
This text then had been written before his journey to France. But once in
Paris, and following his wishes, the Bishop met Libermann and his
priests. He showed his readiness to welcome them to Guinea.
Bishop Barron continued on his voyage making a visit to England,
from where he kept up a correspondence with the Superior of the Soci-
ety of the Most Holy Heart of Mary. In January 1843, he wrote:
Report of Bishop Barron, N.D. V, pp.27-28
''Since I had the consolation of seeing you together with your esteemed
confreres, the idea has come into my mind more than once of writing to
you about taking with us from France, Brothers or rather tradesmen who
would be prepared to become Brothers. Finally I took the resolution to
write to you about it, and though the time is short and our departure must
not be postponed, I think we ought to look for them. It is true that it would
be better to be alone than to have unworthy companions, but God in his
great goodness has already done everything necessary for the success of
our enterprise. God will surely help you to find a few. The kind of person
we are really looking for is what the English call a 'handyman ', able to
turn his hand to anything. In addition we need an ironworker or a black-
smith, a carpenter or a joiner These latter would be of the greatest im-
portance, not only for helping us, but also for attracting the poor
indigenous people who would then do everything for God when they see
that we are doing all we can for their benefit. "'^^"'
Bishop Barron felt the same worries about accepting Brothers into his
Vicariate as Le Vavasseur had during his early months of mission on Re-
union. But the first correspondence of the Bishop makes no reference to
the human and spiritual formation of Brothers. One year later, when he
was faced with the reality, he had a similar reaction to that of Le
Vavasseur as we have already noticed.^''
2.2 Ready to leave for the Missions
We are now in the middle of February 1843. The departure for Guinea is
expected to take place in the following month. The priests of the Holy
Heart of Mary have arrived in Bordeaux. Bishop Barron is in England
and is expected to return to France in July 1843.
'^'^ Letter of Bishop Barron to Libermann, 9* January 1843, N.D. V, p.40
''^ Bishop Barron wrote to Libermann on 9* February 1844: "I would hesitate to send
other Brothers until they have been well formed, even though there is a lot against hav-
ing near naked servants in our missions. I would never allow that, whatever happens
elsewhere. " N.D. V, p. 56
Mr. Germainville''''S a friend of Libermann living in Bordeaux, had been
asked to make the final preparations for the voyage to Guinea. In addi-
tion to that, he proposed to Libermann that he accepts pious laymen ready
to accompany the priests. ^^"
The first to be chosen was a young cooper, Mr. Bemet. Libermann was
ready to receive him into La Neuville to offer him some time for forma-
tion in the new Society. That is the import of what Libermann wrote to
Germainville on 16^^ February: "I believe it would be well for the young
cooper to come and pass some time in the Novitiate. Please send him as
soon as you can. "'''''"
There was little time to spare since the departure had been scheduled for
March 1 843. But the first candidate was not sent to Amiens. Fr. Bessieux
"examined" him himself at Bordeaux, and decided it would be safer not
to allow him to join the group. ^'^'^
In the meantime. Bishop Barron wrote from England to postpone the de-
parture for five months. Instead of March, the voyage would take place
in August. That meant that the missionaries would arrive in Africa in the
season not so dangerous to their health. What a disappointment for the
five priests who wanted to leave immediately!
Libermann now realised that the Bishop needed to come back to France
before the departure of his missioners. The expedition would be much
better organised if they did it together.
^^' Mr. Germainville was a layman involved with social work in Bordeaux. For a fuller
account of Mr. Germainville, cf. Georges-Henri THIBAULT - Homme d'oeuvres entre-
prenant, ami du P. Libermann, M. Germainville (1806-1881), in Memoire Spiritaine, no.
6, deuxieme semestre 1997, pp. 11 9- 142.
xvii Pj. Bessieux, Superior of the mission group about to leave, has given us an account of
the steps taken to find tradesmen willing to go with them. Cf. Note of Bishop Bessieux,
16* June 1862, N.D. V, pp. 322 seq.
"^^ Letter of Libermann to Germainville 16* February 1843, N.D. IV, p. 115
""^ Cf. Fragment of Fr. Bessieux of 5* September 1843, N.D. V, p.254; Cf. also: Notes Di-
verses de Mgr. Bessieux, 16* June 1862, N.D. V, p. 322
The time was passing, and while there were new offers of laymen ready
to join the priests, Libermann was not willing to accept them without ref-
erence to the Bishop. That was because since the laymen were not Reli-
gious, the Bishop would have to take full responsibility for them under
the heading of material assets. In the following letter to a deacon called
Ducoumau, we can see the feelings of Libermann regarding the lay can-
didates waiting for a reply from him:
"The three Brothers from the orphanage which Mr Germainville has at
his home, are causing me problems. I have still not told Mr Germainville
that I can accept them. I would prefer to have an answer from Bishop
Barron on this question. I cannot accept Brothers for the Mission of
Guinea without the agreement of the Bishop, because he is the one who
must be responsible for their joining us. ""^
At this moment in time, everyone is waiting for Bishop Barron. His re-
turn from England is expected in July. He finally arrived at La Neuville
in the middle of August, and agreed with our Venerable Father to accept
Gregory SIXTH into the group.™
Bishop Barron thought he would find in France a small group of Ca-
puchins from Italy who would join the expedition with the missioners of
the Holy Heart of Mary. At the end of the day, they did not arrive. The
Bishop meanwhile was spending the whole time trying to increase the
group of apostles. Libermann offered him a young priest, Jean-Louis
MAURICE, recently admitted into the Society. Bishop Barron accepted
Meanwhile, The Vicar Apostolic had decided to "give a chance" to a Eu-
dist priest, Paul LAVAL, to take part in the same expedition.^"
"^ Letter of Libermann to Ducoumau, V May 1843, N.D. IV, p.21L
'«• Cf Letter of Libermann to Germainville, 13* August 1843, N.D. IV, p.320.
''''" Libermann himself had not wished to receive the Eudist Paul LAVAL immediately
into his new Society for fear of offending Fr. Louis, the Superior of the Eudists. Cf. Andre
DUGUY and Gerard VIEIRA - La reprise des missions sur le cotes de "Guinee ": Mgr.
Barron , 1841-1845, (Edition en brochure), Dakar 1995, p.20.
2.3 The Laymen join the Expedition at the last Moment.
Initially, Libermann's group going to Guinea consisted of five priests:
Jean Marie Remy BESSIEUX™", (Superior of the group), Francis
BOUCHET'^i^ Jean Louis ROUSSEL^^ Louis Marie AUDEBERT'^^i,
and Leopold de REGNIER'^'^^".
On the arrival of Bishop Barron from England, two others were admit-
ted into the group: Jean Louis MAURICE and Paul LAVAL^^^"'
On the new departure date, August 1843, Libermann said his goodbyes
at the Square in La Neuville. The seven priests then went to Bordeaux.
However, the departure was once more postponed for several weeks - it
was a happy disappointment for it allowed them to increase the number
of departing missionaries!
The first layman prepared to accompany them, Gregory SIXTE , a tailor,
was admitted into the group with Libermann's approval. But in the com-
ings and goings of the last days before leaving, two other laymen joined
the group. They were Andrew BATASAC, a cobbler, and John FABE a
grinder by profession.
When finally the day of departure dawned, the 13^^ September 1843, there
were ten men heading for the mission of the Two Guineas, seven priests
and three laymen.
'«'" Bom 24 December 1803 at Vellieux, Herault, in the diocese of Montpellier. He died
in Gabon 30* April 1876.
™^ Bom 2"<i June 1816 at Cmseilles in Savoy. Died 28* May 1844 on the way to Cape
'"^ Bom 10* March 1815 at Amiens. Died 23 January 1844 at Cape Palmas.
'^^i Bom 3"^ March 1813 at Noyon in Oise. Died at Grand Bassam 6* July 1844.
'"^" Bom 9* August 1807 at Saint Marc de Reus in Ome. Died at Grand Bassam 30* De-
cember 1843 at Cape Palmas.
'"'^" Jean Louis MAURICE was bom in 1812 at Corsept, in Loire Atlantique: he left the
Society in 1844 and died in the United States. Paul LAVAL was bom in 1816 at Conde-
Sur-Noireau in Calvados, and died on 14* July 1844 at Assinie.
2.4 TheAgreement of Libermann
Our Venerable Father did not make any real agreement between his Society
and the three laymen sent to Guinea. We know that Gregory SDCTE had re-
ceived a little preparatory training, but the two others had not even met Liber-
mann. They left without having done any novitiate and without having
pronounced their vows in the missionary Society of the Holy Heart of Mary.
It must be remembered that our Venerable Father was not yet Superior of
a Religious Congregation, and that the question of the admission of
Brothers, or rather of laymen who would go with the priests, could not
be imagined in the way that we do so nowadays. In that era, there had
been no question of admitting Brothers into the missionary Society. The
Founder was preoccupied with the problem but without being able to
draw upon any precedents in the matter.
2.4. 1 . From the Material Point of View
As they were about to leave for Guinea, Bishop Barron wrote to Liber-
mann asking him to take other official steps concerning the project.
Libermann accepted the request, and immediately wrote to the Ministry
of the Navy and that of the Colonies to ask their support not only for the
seven priests but also for the three laymen going with them:
"/ immediately went to Paris and saw the Minister. He was very
favourable to the idea. The Minister is actually a very religious man.
I presented the proposals in which I agreed to send the seven missioners
and three Brothers (lately left for Africa) to the French trading posts
which had been newly established on the African coast.
Our missioners will have complete liberty in the exercise of their reli-
gious ministry and will in no way be under the civil authorities in mat-
ters spiritual or concerning their conscience. ""^^"^
Letter of Libermann to Gamon, 7* December 1843, N.D. IV, p. 453.
The agreement was made. The Director of the Colonies promised to pay
the expenses of the journey to Africa. The work of the priests and Broth-
ers would be subsidised by the Government. This is the happy way that
Libermann solved the problem which he had previously brought up, of
being responsible for his missionaries.
2.4.2. From the Moral Point of View
However, our Venerable Father had a yet more difficult problem to solve,
namely, the status of the laymen in his Society. This was of little con-
cern to Bishop Barron, but it was one which deeply worried Libermann,
as we can see in the following private letter written to Mr. Germainville:
"I have no idea at all about what took place in Bordeaux. I have no de-
tails about the actions of the missioners or of the charitable people aid-
ing them. I have heard nothing about the admission of Brothers into the
group. I know that the missioners found two laymen to help them at Bor-
deaux, for I have a memorandum on the matter, but I have received no let-
ter from Fr Bessieux announcing the fact. """^"^
Some months later, in a letter to the confreres on Reunion telling them
about developments in the new Society, Libermann alluded to the situa-
tion of the Brothers who had left from Bordeaux without having made a
"In the matter of the Brothers, they^' have committed a fault, but out of
necessity. The mistake is that they left with them from Bordeaux, without
any previous novitiate being made. They even forgot to send me their
names, or any details. I admit they were under pressure, because it was
'^ Letter of Libermann to Germainville, 22°<i September 1843, N.D. IV, p.345
^' Libermann is referring to his priests, especially Fr. Bessieux, the Superior of the group.
Libermann had previously written to Fr. Bessieux asking him to give the Christian and
surnames, together with the ages, of these "late arrivals". Cf Letter of Libermann to Fr.
Bessieux, September 1843, N.D. IV, p.327
impossible to get established in Guinea without the presence of Brothers.
I know that one of them is called John Fabe^^^^ . These good Brothers will
give them a hard time. "'^"^
Libermann here expresses his doubts concerning the arrival of the Broth-
ers, given their lack of formation. In fact the problems would arise from
2.5 Sufferings in Guinea.
The missionary group arrived at Cape Palmas on 30* November 1843.
They had to wait for the arrival of Bishop Barron. However, waiting is
always difficult, and brings its own dangers. Most of the missionaries
fell ill. Brother Gregory received the Sacrament of the Sick on 20* De-
cember and was in agony for a month. In the meantime, the others also
succumbed as was described later by Brother Peter Mersy who had heard
all about it from Brother Gregory ^'"'^:
"The pious Fr. de Regnier set about planting sweet potatoes, to make a
change from rice. He worked bare headed under the African sun. Poor
Brother Gregory was still in bed sick with fever GoodFr de Regnier took
to his bed in the same room as the poor Brother, and died without Brother
Gregory realising it, so ill was the latter Fr de Regnier had already re-
ceived the Last Sacraments. GoodFr Reussel dug the grave ofFr de Reg-
nier, and as soon as he had been buried, Fr. Roussel himselfwent into the
bed of the dead priest, right beside Brother Gregory, who still had no idea
of what was happening. It was only on the death of Fr Roussel that
Brother Gregory returned to his senses. He thought it was Fr de Regnier
who was in the next bed. Fr. Bessieux told him that Fr. de Regnier was al-
ready dead and buried and that Fr Roussel had just died. "'"''''
'«^»' Letter of Libermann to the Community on Reunion, 25* February 1844, N.D. VI,
From the description given by Brother Peter Mersy later on in this study.
Notes sur le F. Gregoire, December 1863, N.D. V, pp.329-330
Fr. de Regnier died on 30* December 1843, and Fr. Roussel died on 23
January 1844. They were then the first losses of the group.
During those days, the catechist who had come with Fr. John Kelly, Mr.
Denis Pindar, died. Immediately following this, Fr. Kelly, who had just
welcomed Libermann's missionaries, refused to wait for the arrival of
his bishop; he lost heart completely and returned to Europe on 18* Jan-
2.5.1. The Arrival of Bishop Barron
Bishop Barron arrived at Goree on 7* January 1844. He thought he would
find his group of missionaries there. However there was a letter for him
fi-om Fr. Bessieux, informing him that everyone had left for Cape Palmas
the previous month. He was much perturbed and wrote to Libermann on
9* January: "Dear Father Superior, all of this makes me full of regret
that our missioners, who were supposed to stay in Goree^^^'^^ had not
waited there until my arrival, "^^v"
The missionaries had in fact all gone to Cape Palmas because that is how
they interpreted what Libermann said in a letter to Fr. Bessieux. So
Bishop Barron now had to make his way to Cape Palmas in order to be
able to organise the group. He wanted to bring back two priests and one
Brother to Goree, but the Bishop was as yet unaware of the losses suf-
fered by his missionaries.
2.5.2. The Organisation of the Group
Libermann's missionaries had arrived at Cape Palmas on 30* November
1843, and were awaiting the arrival of the Bishop with impatience. The
Vicar Apostolic finally reached them on P^ March 1844. Bishop Barron
' Letter of Bishop Barron to Libermann, 9* January 1844, N.D. V, p. 50
left the ship with two other Irish missionaries, the deacon James Keily
and a layman John Egan.
The very same day, the Bishop called a meeting of the missionaries to tell
them of his plan to divide the group in order to send them to different
missions^^''"^ But he very quickly realised that the group at his disposal
was much reduced'^^'^.
The missionaries were still coming to terms with their shock at the deaths
of their two confreres. They were much concerned, and Bishop Barron
hesitated to take any definite decisions. Then out of the blue, the very
next day, the Vicar Apostolic decided that everybody was to take ship
for Grand Bassam. Only Fr. Bessieux and Jean Fabe were to remain at
Cape Palmas, in order to send on their movable property.
After several days of sailing under the stifling sun, the Bishop with the
agreement of the missionaries decided to split the group in two. Fr.
Bouchet, Fr. Maurice, Brother Andrew, John Egan, the deacon James
Keily and the Bishop would stay at Assinie. Fr. Audebert, Fr. Laval and
Brother Gregory would sail on until they reached Grand Bassam. It was
also agreed that the Superior, Fr. Bessieux, would rejoin the group at
Assinie once he had arrived at Cape Palmas. Then Fr. Bouchet would
leave Assinie to go to Grand Bassam as the new Superior''^
However, Fr. Bouchet was not to take up his appointment as Superior. He
died at sea in May 1 844, in the presence of Bishop Barron. Likewise the
deacon James Keily, one month later, on W^ June 1844.
At the beginning of July, a doctor paid a visit to the mission of Assinie.
He noted the amount of fever present among the missionaries, and the un-
sanitary conditions in which they were living. He gave orders that all
'^^'» Cf. Journal of Fr. Audebert, N.D. V, pp.222 seq.
'^''^ Fr. de Regnier and Fr. Roussel were missing from Libermann's group, and Fr. Kelly
and his catechist were missing from the "diocesan" group.
=" Cf. Letter of Fr. Audebert to Libermann, 15'^ April 1844, N.D. V, p.274
who were willing should return immediately to France. Brother Andrew,
John Egan, Fr. Maurice and Bishop Barron finally arrived in Europe.
While all this was going on, Fr. Laval came from Grand Bassam to make
a visit to Assinie. He was too ill to join the others on the ship. "He was
left dying in the trading post of Assinie, where he finally expired on 14^^
July 1844"''^' , a few days after the departure of his confreres.
On his arrival in Europe about two months later, Bishop Barron offered
Rome his resignation as Vicar ApostoHc of the Two Guineas^^".
Part 3: The Mission of the First Brothers
Even if we are dealing with historical facts which concern laymen, who
were not Religious, accompanying the priests of the Holy Heart of Mary,
we shall see that these lay people give us a testimony which enables us
to consider them as "founders of their vocation" of Brothers in the new
3.1 Bessieux and Gregory
The Superior of Libermann's group, Fr., Bessieux, was at Cape Palmas,
while Gregory was at Grand Bassam.
Although the missionary group in Assinie was sent back to France to-
gether with the Bishop of the Two Guineas, the others, who did not know
what was going on, stayed at their posts.
At. Grand Bassam, Fr. Audebert died on 6^^^ July, and Fr. Laval died on
14^^ July, when he reached Assinie. Gregory was now alone.
"" Cf. Addition to the Journal of Fr. Audebert by Fr. Duparquet, N.D. V, p.248
''•" Cf. Letters of Bishop Barron to Libermann, 7* August 1844, and 3^^^ September 1844,
N.D. V, pp. 64-67
Fr. Bessieux stayed for six months at Cape Palmas with Jean Fabe. The
ship which was to transport the housing of the Bishop was delayed for
three months. Finally, around the middle of September, Fr. Bessieux
boarded the ship with Jean Fabe for Grand Bassam. Only on reaching
there did they realise the disaster which had occurred. Several of the con-
freres were dead, with only Brother Gregory still there. This is how
Brother Peter Mersy described the arrival of Bessieux:
"Someone came to tell poor Brother Gregory that Fr Bessieux was an-
chored offshore. He immediately got two Black People to bring him out
to the ship by canoe. He was in such a sorry state that he was unable to
walk. The water at the harbour bar was so powerful that the boat cap-
sized twice. Twice the Negros, who were experts in such a situation,
fished him out of the water and put him back in the canoe. He was un-
conscious by the time they reached the ship, and had to be lifted aboard.
When he returned to his senses, both of them, Bessieux and himself, fell
into tears. Finally, their first emotions subsided. Fr Bessieux told Gre-
gory that he was going to send him back to France to do a novitiate, and
that he would regain his strength there. As for himself, when the ship
went back to Gabon, he would be on it. Brother Gregory said that he
would go to Gabon, or anywhere else, with him, even if it meant his
death. Fr Bessieux did not insist on his idea and let matters lie at that. "'^'"^
So Fr. Bessieux did not prevent Gregory from continuing his mission
with him. But Jean Fabe, who had accompanied him as far as Cape Pal-
mas, had by now lost his reason. He immediately set sail for Europe, but
unfortunately died while still at sea on his way home.''^'''
Now, Fr. Bessieux, who had been sent by Libermann as Superior often
missionaries, seven priests and three laymen, found himself alone with
"'"' Notes on Brother Gregory, December 1863, N. D. V, p. 331
""^ Cf. Henry KOREN - Les Spiritains: trois siecles d 'histoire religieuse et missionnaire,
Beauchesne, Paris, 1982, p. 210
Since they had not been instructed otherwise, the two of them continued
their missionary work, even without the presence of the Vicar ApostoUc.
They left for Gabon. On their arrival, they occupied the house intended
for Bishop Barron. "The good Brother did the cooking, the washing,
mending clothes, etc: the apostle went into the villages with a Negro who
knew a little how to translate Pongwe into French. "^^"^
Later, they gathered together some children, who ate and lived in the
house, and the Brother taught them to read and to sew.
3.2 Peter Mersy on Haiti
Although Gregory was part of a missionary group on the African coast,
on the other side of the Atlantic, on Haiti, Eugene TISSERANT had been
working all alone, since November 1842.
Meanwhile, Libermann got together a new team to join the co-Founder
of the new Society. They were Father Joseph LOSSEDAT and Brother
Peter MERSY. They left for Haiti on 13^^ February 1844.
Unfortunately, this mission was not to last very long. Scarcely a year
later, there were changes in the Secretariats of State for Justice, Public In-
struction, and Religion. The result was that the situation became very
anti Catholic, and the missionaries were forced to return to France.
On returning to La Neuville, they learned the alarming news about the
group in Guinea. There was even official talk of the whole group being
dead. Masses were therefore celebrated for the repose of their souls.
3.3 Peter Mersy is sent to Guinea.
In spite of the atmosphere of mourning, the return of Brother Peter from
Haiti at least offered Fr. Libermann the chance to form a new mission-
ary team for Guinea.
Notes on Brother Gregory, 1863, N.D. V, p.332
Peter Mersy was in temporary Vows. On his return from missionary ex-
perience in Haiti, and after staying some months in France, he made his
Perpetual Vows on 1 1* June 1845. That was the very day of his new de-
parture, this time for the African coast, together with Fathers Briot and
3.4 Biographies of Peter and Gregory
Brother Peter, as we have indicated above, gave us certain biographical
details concerning Brother Gregory. He also included his own story. Here
is what he wrote about his friend:
"Dear, good and well beloved Brother Gregory was born in Bordeaux, I
believe, around 1824 or 1825. 1 did not know his family. I got to know him
two years before he left for the Missions. I struck up a friendship with him
because I was attracted by his piety and love of God. We usually spoke
about making pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Rome or even Compostella. On
one occasion we were ready to go on one. But we could not decide which
pilgrimage to make. We did not wish anybody to know about our idea, so
we put it off until later We then agreed to enter La Trappe. It would be
wonderful to be Trappists. But we did not know how to get there. Was it
in France? Or Spain? We had no idea. We were the subject of ridicule be-
cause we went to Holy Communion so often. If the other orphans had
any idea that we wanted to be Trappists, they would have laughed us to
We were in Bordeaux when the venerable Bishop Luquet passed through
as a simple missioner. A pious person introduced me to him before he
left, and he was the first to talk to me about our dear Society. He wrote
to our Venerable Father on my behalf. Since I was so friendly with
Brother Gregory, I told him about it. That was in 1842, near the Feast of
All Saints. We redoubled our fervour until in September 1843, Frs.
Bessieux, Maurice, Audebert, Bouchet, etc., and all the other missioner s
of the Holy Heart of Mary passed through Bordeaux to get a ship for
Cape Palmas. The same good person as before told me about them. We
both presented ourselves to Fr Bessieux. He examined us, and preferred
to take my companion with him since he was two years older He prom-
ised me that he would write to our Venerable Father in order to get me
accepted for the novitiate. "'^'^^
It appears that this testimony of Peter was written in 1 863, in other words,
twenty years after the first group left for Guinea. Brother Peter then wrote
about the trials undergone by his confreres.
"My dear Fathers and good Brother Gregory set sail on 29^^ September,
the Feast of the Archangel Michael, and arrived at Cape P almas on 3(}^
November 1843, the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle. Poor Brother Gre-
gory had plenty to suffer on the voyage, because he was often seasick
and the food was bad: he ate the same rations as the sailors.
On arriving at Cape Palmas, they found a priest, who was either English
or Irish, and a young man of the same nationality""^^''. At Cape Palmas, it
was terrible for our dear Fathers and Mission founders. They only had
rice for food, and it was cooked in a large pot by the young Englishman.
It was as hard as stale bread, and since there was not enough for everyone,
poor Father de Regnier was often undernourished. The others ate it but
with evident distaste. Our dear Brother Gregory was often reduced to eat-
ing what was left at the bottom of the pot. It was like a kind of burnt crust,
as he often told me. Then the young Englishman died, and the English or
Irish priest was so disheartened that he left immediately for England.
Brother Gregory became the cook. "'■
3.5 Peter meets Gregory again at Goree
Brother Peter Mersy encountered the same difficulties as the apostles of
the Society of the Most Holy Heart of Mary, when he finally arrived in
Guinea. Let us read the passage in which Peter describes his voyage out
to Africa, still not knowing whether he would find Gregory alive or dead:
'^'^i Notes on Brother Gregory, 1863, N.D. V, pp.328-329.
'''^"' Notes on Brother Gregory, 1863, N.D. V, p.329
^^Three months after our return from Santo Domingo (Haiti), we arrived at
Goree. There were three of us: Fr Briot, Fr. Arragon and myself We left our
loads still on board and went through the streets of Goree trying to find out
if any of our confreres were still alive. The Commander in Goree told us he
had no news to give us about them. A trader informed us that there was a
priest in Gabon with a young man called Gregory. We were so happy to
hear that! Soon afterwards, a Government ship set sail for Gabon, bring-
ing a large packet of letters for the good priest and the dear Brother. Our
Venerable Father had given them to us in case they were still alive. All our
boxes and provisions were opened to share our provisions with them. Three
weeks later, the ship entered the Gabon river, at ten o ' clock at night. The
captain, with a delicacy which cannot be too highly praised, sent up the let-
ters to Fr. Bessieux who was not yet it bed, although it was eleven o 'clock
by that time. This good priest woke up his companion and they both went
to the chapel to read the letters on their knees in front of the Blessed Sacra-
ment. How they wept with tears of joy! They had received no news about
France or about the Congregation for two years. They thought the Society
had been dissolved, and now according to what they read it was flourish-
ing. In addition to that, new confreres had arrived to help them. They began
to sing the Magnificat out of gratitude to God. It was midnight by then. No
matter They spent the rest of the night talking about these wonderful events.
Next morning, they offered their Mass and Communion in thanksgiving.
A few months later, Fr Briot was able to pay them an unexpected visit. He
stayed a month with Fr. Bessieux and Brother Gregory. The poor Brother,
realising that the Mission was taking a turn for the better, asked permission
to make a short novitiate either in France or in Goree. This was agreed. So
he came to Goree with Fr Briot, arriving near the beginning of 1846. At first
I found it hard to recognise him. He was almost black. A large straw hat cov-
ered his head. He was wearing some kind of soutane which was neither
blue nor black. It was of the kind of English cloth used for making jeans. He
was extremely happy to see me. So much so that he said that although he had
decided to return to France for his novitiate, he would make it in Goree so
as to remain near me. "^^
^^^ Notes on Brother Gregory, 1863, N.D. V, pp.333-334.
Part 4. Towards a more structured Organisation
We have just been studying certain historical facts which took place dur-
ing the first years of the missionary Society of the Most Holy Heart of
Mary. We have seen how laymen took part in the missionary adventure
with the priests, without having done a novitiate! Basing ourselves now
on the writings of Brother Peter Mersy, we now propose to describe the
conditions under which the first novitiates for the Brothers took place.
4.1 The First Novitiate
Peter was the first Brother to be professed in the missionary Society of
the Holy Heart of Mary^.
"/ have never heard it said that any other Brother came to La Neuville
before me, whether as postulant or novice. I therefore believe that I was
the first postulant^\ novice, and professed member
I made my vows for three years on 13^^ February 1844, after two months
ofpostulancy and novitiate, in the little room of our Venerable Father, un-
derneath the pigeon loft. I was alone with the good Father, in front of a
small crucifix placed on the table. At that historic moment, nothing was
written down. He said the words of the vows and I repeated them loudly
after him. Then he embraced me, as happens publicly nowadays at such
a ceremony. Then we went down to the little chapel, which was only a
room in which everybody was waiting before taking their departure.
' This is confirmed in the Register of the first members admitted to the Novitiate: Cf Les
premiers membres, N.D. Ill, pp. 401 seq.
So Peter was the first Brother to take his Temporary Vows in the Society, in Febru-
ary 1844. We should remember however that before Peter, our Venerable Father had re-
ceived Gregory into the Society in 1843, just a few weeks before he left for Guinea.
Libermann had also welcomed other candidates to the vocation of Brother even if they
did not eventually take vows. Cf Letter to Fr. Caron, 28* April 1840, N. D. II, p.81.
'' Libermann had other postulants before Peter Mersy. Cf Letter of Libermann to M.
Hale, 5* October 1841, N. D. Ill, p. 30.
This is what happened on the first occasion I saw such an event. The
altar was decorated with every costly thing at our disposal The Blessed
Sacrament was exposed in a monstrance on the altar, in the midst of
whatever candles our poor situation could afford. The chandeliers in the
room were also lit up. We chanted Lauda Jerusalem, Pange Lingua, the
prayer Deus qui nobis and then the prayer for departing missioners. The
priest who was making his Consecration to the Apostolate, said the words
on his knees in front of the altar, and then it was my turn to do the same.
When that was finished, we spent some time in profound adoration. Our
Venerable Father then embraced the two of us, and we went round the
chapel embracing everyone else who was there. When we returned to our
places, our Venerable Father gave the Benediction. We left immediately.
We were on our way while our dear confreres were chanting Ecce quam
bonus in the chapel. So , dear Father, that is the first mission departure
which I had ever witnessed, and that is how I took my first vows for three
That all took place before his departure for the Mission of Haiti. Now
we shall see how he described his perpetual religious profession.
"A year later, having returned from Santo Domingo (Haiti), I took my
Perpetual Vows in public together with Brother Fulgence^''\ The altar
had been adorned as for a great solemnity. Our Venerable Father got us
to kneel on the altar step, and there, with him between us wearing a sur-
plice, and with the tabernacle open, as we still do today, we pronounced
our Perpetual Vows. I was first, and then my confrere Fulgence. When we
had finished, the good Father said that he received our vows with great
happiness. He gave us a little sermon, then embraced us. He was fol-
lowed by our Fathers, then the priests, deacons and subdeacons. The
others present did not come forward. Needless to say the Brothers did
'" Note of Brother Peter Mersy, 2^^ March 1862, N. D. V, pp.324-325
"" Brother Fulgence DENJON, was bom at Bellancourt, in the diocese of Amiens, on 13*
February 1819. He entered the Novitiate on 21st May 1844. Cf. Les premiers membres,
N. D. Ill, p. 404.
not come forward either for we were the first: the others were only pos-
tulants. That all took place on IP^ June 1845. 1 left the very same day for
4.2 Private Vows
We must understand that in the era we are describing, vows were not
obHgatoryi^, nor was there any Rule of Life for the Brothers. The recent
Regulations were contained in the Provisional Rule of 1840. This al-
lowed those who wished to take private vows. Even when vows were
made, they were of no concern to the other members of the Society. The
same Rule said, "The vows are to be made without the knowledge of the
other missioners, and the secret must be maintained throughout one s
Such discretion was imposed in order to prevent cliques forming in
the Society. This is how it is explained in a gloss written by Fr. Lan-
"It is important for secrecy regarding those who have or who have not
taken vows. For example, it is possible that missioners entertain suspi-
cions that some people are not very highly regarded because they have
not taken vows, or that such people^""'' should not be elevated to high of-
fice, or that such people must be treated differently from those in
''^ Note of Brother Peter Mersy, 2?>'^ March 1862, N. D. V, p. 325..
''' What was necessary for all the members of the Society was Consecration to the Most
Holy Heart of Mary. This can be seen from Chapter VII of the Fourth Part of the Provi-
sional Rule. This Consecration was to be taken even by those in Religious Vows.
1^* Provisional Rule, art. IV, no. 3, N. D. II, p.260.
iviii Fj-an9ois NICOLAS - Regie Provisoire des missionnaires de Libermann, Pro manus-
cripto, Mortain, 1967, p.60.
We remember that the laymen who went in the first missionary group to
Guinea, had not made vows. This did not prevent them entering whole-
heartedly into their apostolic community as described by Fr. Bessieux:
"In the early years, they had not made any religious commitment. How-
ever, they joined us in all our spiritual exercises, got up early as we did,
made their meditation, assisted at Holy Mass, spiritual reading and
Rosary, and went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation every week. They
ate the same food as we did and at the same table.
A little later, they wore the habit on Sundays, and we found it easy to give
them the title of Brother Our love for them and their love for us was wor-
thy of the name, and was more in keeping with the ties which bound us
Unfortunately, among the laymen who left for Africa with Fr.
Bessieux, only Gregory SIXTH actually lived the rest of his life as a
Brother in the Society. Jean Fabe died "in harness", and Andrew left the
Society as soon as he returned to France^.
4.3 The Founder
The first novitiate for Brothers opened in December 1 843, at La Neuville,
and lasted scarcely two months.^""' Libermann was the Novice Master.
As we have seen, our Venerable Father founded the Work for the Blacks
in constant dialogue with his colleague Le Vavasseur. In November 1 844,
he wrote a letter to him in Reunion, in which he gave his impressions of
the atmosphere in the house of formation which welcomed candidates
who wished to be priests or Brothers. "There are a lot of people in our
'•^ Various Notes - The Missionary Brothers - Note of Bishop Bessieux, 1 6*^ June 1 862, N.
D. V, p. 323
^ On returning to France, Andrew became a gardener in the Major Seminary of Bor-
Cf. Note 2, N. D. V, p.249
community. We have seven people who are going to make their Conse-
cration to the Apostolate very soon. They are all priests, or soon will be.
(...) In addition we have eight Brothers. "^''"
Although from the beginning of his Work for the Black People, Liber-
mann thought about preparing certain laymen to be sent to the missions,
the formation to be given was not as yet very well structured. Our Ven-
erable Father understood the importance of Brothers for missionary
work^*", and he looked for ways to integrate them into the missionary
Society of the Most Holy Heart of Mary. That is why he took the reso-
lution to compose a Rule for Brothers at the end of 1 844. In the end, this
Rule only saw the light of day after the ftision of his Society with the
Seminary of the Holy Spirit. It's title was, "Rules of the Brothers of the
Congregation of the Holy Spirit and the Immaculate Heart of Mary ". It
was published in 1851, a document thirty pages long^^^^
From all that we have just said, it is clear that Libermann was the founder
of the Brothers in the Congregation. That at least was the opinion of Fr.
"What was the origin of the first Brothers in the Congregation? Who was
the first to think of the idea and how did he promote it?
The introduction of the first Brothers was not achieved by the missioners
leaving for Africa from Bordeaux in 1843. It was simply the realisation
^' Cf. Note of Brother Peter Mersy, 23^^ March 1 862, N. D. V, p. 325
•^" Letter of Libermann to Le Vavasseur, 14* November 1844, N. D. VI, p. 425.
'^'" From the time of the foundation of the Society, Libermann was conscious that he had
to open a road for the integration of Brothers. Cf Letter to Fr. Caron, 28* April 1840, N.
D. II, p. 81; also Letter to Germainville, of P' November 1843, N. D. IV, p. 416.
In a letter to the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda Fide, 28* March 1844, Libermann
defends his sending of a certain number of Brothers for the mission of Haiti with a view
to opening a school. Cf N. D. VI, p. 135. In another letter addressed to Mother Javouhey,
22°'* July 1 844, Libermann equally expresses his conviction that priests should be ac-
companied by Brothers who would open a school and teach various trades to the indige-
nous people; Cf N. D. VI, p. 275.
•'^i^CfN.D. XI, pp. 487-517.
of a project conceived by our Venerable Father, and carried out willingly
by him. This is easily understood when we read the letters Libermann
wrote to a young cooper from Bordeaux, who had shown the desire,
through the mediation of I believe, Mr. Germainville, to accompany us
to Africa, in order to help the missioners. "^''"'
As Fr. Bessieux stated, Libermann was the founder of the Spiritan Broth-
ers. He is the one who, in his capacity as Superior General, judged it nec-
essary to welcome them into the Society of the Most Holy Heart of Mary,
and later, into the Congregation of the Holy Spirit under the Protection
of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In this little study, we have seen how the courage of the first missionar-
ies, especially those in Guinea, was a fundamental element in the foun-
dation of the work of Brothers in the Congregation. The bravery of
Gregory has been well described by Peter Mersy. How is it that Gregory
did not become discouraged when faced with such sufferings? He it is,
surely, who has left up until today one of the most beautiful testimonies
regarding the apostolic life of a Spiritan Brother. He lived the Rule of
Life even before knowing of its existence.
Libermann listened to Le Vavasseur and Bishop Barron when they asked
for Brothers. The status of a Brother in the missionary Society and in the
Congregation became more and more precise as time went by. The first
laymen left for the Missions, moved by the power of their own personal
passion for evangelisation. They had the benefit of only a few weeks or
months of formation. And only as and when it was possible, did these
lay people make their novitiate, and pronounce their vows and Conse-
cration to the Most Holy Heart of Mary. They became members of a sin-
gle Congregation, made up of priests and Brothers.
'"^ Different Notes - The Missionary Brothers - Note of Bishop Bessieux, 1 6* June 1 862,
N. D. V, p. 322
NOTES ET DOCUMENTS (N. D.) Relatifs a la vie et a I'oeuvre du
Venerable Frangois-Marie-Paul Libermann, Pour distribution
privee, Paris, volumes II a VII et XI, (edites entre les annees 193 1 et
Joaquim Ramos SEIXAS - Antologia Espiritana: Claudio Poullart des
Places, tomo 1, Ed. Provincia de Espaiia, Madrid, 1998, 380 pp.
Francois NICOLAS - Regie Provisoire des missionnaires de Libermann
(la naissance d'un code de spiritualite missionnaire), Texte et com-
mentaire, Pro manuscripto, Mortain, 1967, 230 pp.
Athanase BOUCHARD et Francois NICOLAS - Synopse des deux Re-
gies de Libermann precedee de la premiere Regie Spiritaine. Texte in-
tegral et authentique, pro manuscripto, Paris, 1968, 204 pp.
Henry KOREN - Les Spiritains: trois siecles d'histoire religieuse et mis-
sionnaire, Beauchesme, Paris, 1982 (traduit par J. Bouchaud et A.
Grach) 635 pp.
Andre DUGL^f et Gerard VIEIRA - La reprise des missions sur les cotes
de "Guinee": Mgr Barron, 1841 - 1845, (edition en brochure),
Dakar, 1995,88 pp.
Rene CHARRIER - Les Freres Courage (variations sur lesfreres spir-
itains), Memoire Spiritaine - Etudes et Documents 1, Paris, 1944,
Mission de Bajob
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCES IN THE
AS A BROTHER.
Joseph Mba C.S.Sp.
Joseph Mba, who belongs to the Province of Nigeria shares with us in
this article what motivated and inspired him to become a brother in the
Congregation. He also shares the number of roles that he has been in-
volved in the Congregation.
I was bom in the Royal family of Chief and Lolo Paul Mbachukwu
Nwaobula of Umueze-Uhueze in Nenwe Aninri Local Government
Area of Enugu State - Nigeria on P^ Jan, 1960. First Profession 1981.
Final Profession 1991.
A child in the womb, they say, belongs to one person, but when bom
belongs to every one. I grew up with my other age mates, not knowing
what God has in store for me. I became very interested in the activities
of the church such as the Block Rosary cmsade and choir. In the long
mn, this led me into the Holy Ghost Juniorate. Later I came across a Sem-
inarian who was doing his apostolic work in my town, now Fr. Mike On-
wuemelie; his missionary activities greatly inspired me and highlighted
my vocation. Later, I met Brother Linus Ugwu during my Postulancy. I
greeted him, "Good moming father", because he was dressed the same
as the fathers and was too old to be a seminarian. Then, he responded
but later called me and told me that he is neither a priest nor a seminar-
ian but a Holy Ghost Brother. We had a long conversation with a lot of
questions and answers and then I understood that the Holy Ghost Con-
gregation has Brothers among them, after which I became interested in
the brotherhood. He also encouraged me to become a Brother and I thank
God for him, because I am happy to be one of them.
At the novitiate, the Novice master made it clear to us that one is a
member of the Spiritan Congregation by virtue of his temporary and per-
petual vows and not by Ordination. He said that even if a bishop or priest
wants to join the Congregation, he must do the Novitiate and be pro-
fessed taking vows. This confirmed my discussion with Brother Linus,
and I became more certain about my vocation to brotherhood. In 198 1, 1
made my first profession and in 1991, 1 made my perpetual profession by
the grace of God.
Meanwhile, the road to this destination wasn't an easy one. My fa-
ther being a traditional ruler of my town would not allow his expected
successor and his only son to join Religious life, and my mother had the
same feeling, so it wasn't easy for her to accept it. A lot of meetings were
held and several promises were made, all in an effort to discourage me
but when it was clear that I could not do as they wished, they left me
alone and finally my mother accepted it and became a Catholic. Much
later my father also joined the Catholic Church. I am happy indeed, that
they were alive and received all the blessings of the Lord before they de-
parted to eternal rest.
However, one may be tempted to ask, given the opportunities I had,
why did I choose to be a Brother? Simply, it is indeed my "Call", a vo-
cation that makes me happy, a vocation that brings me closer to the poor
Brothers could be useful in many areas such as counseling, technical
work, hospital services, teaching and lots more. These areas did not need
one to be ordained before he could do them; therefore, this called for the
urgent revitalization of the vocation to Spiritan Brotherhood.
In some provinces. Brothers in our Congregation suffer a lot of dis-
crimination from both priest and lay people, for instance, a popular say-
ing "if father is eating let him remember brother" simply described the
impression they have about brotherhood, meaning Fathers must eat to
their satisfaction before Brothers can eat if there is food left over.
Many priests will ask you, why don't you go for the priesthood? And
the lay faithftil will ask you, when are you going to be ordained? This
shows that some of our Priests, Seminarians and lay people don't even
understand the vocation of the brotherhood. These kinds of attitudes will
not in any way encourage young people to join the brotherhood and
should be discouraged. I will ever remain grateful to God for my voca-
tion to brotherhood in the Congregation.
I thank God and our Congregation for the opportunities given to me
to serve in the following capacities. These areas include:
Bursar Spiritan School of Philosophy, Isienu - Nsuka, Spiritan Farm
manager, Assistant Provincial Bursar, Provincial Councillor, Regional
Councillor, Spiritan Construction and Design W.A Ltd and Foundation
for Training of Rural Youths.
The following building projects I was involved in are witnesses to my
• Spiritan International School of Theology (SIST), Enugu State -
• Spiritan Retreat Center, Akabor, Imo State - Nigeria.
• Spiritan House of Welcome Onitsha, Anambra State - Nigeria.
• Holy Ghost Novitiate Chapel, Awomama, Imo State - Nigeria
• Holy Ghost Provincialate, Abuja - Nigeria.
• Spiritan Novitiate and Philosophy Ejisu - Ghana.
Looking at the works ahead in the areas of our apostolate and the
need for integral development of human persons, there is urgent need for
more promotion and recruitment of Spiritan brothers. We should make
every effort to give life again to this branch of the tree that is dying. It is
our collective responsibility and should be treated as an emergency in
our Congregation. I suggest that Formators should make known to young
people in formation that one is a member of the Spiritan Congregation by
virtue of his temporary and perpetual vows and not by ordination, and en-
courage some to join the brotherhood.
There should exist a very cordial relationship among priests and
brothers in our various communities. This will also encourage young
people to embrace the vocation to Spiritan Brothers. Indeed an atmos-
phere void of discrimination will go a long way in promoting the image
of brotherhood in the Congregation.
Finally, my prayer is that God will continue to keep us together as a
family and increase vocations of brothers and priests in our Congrega-
tion. For, the Harvest is plenty but the Labourers are few.
A SPIRITAN BROTHER AT THE SERVICE
Jean Claude Kibinda
My name is Jean Claude Kibinda Maloko and I come from
Congo Brazzaville; I just celebrated my forty-seventh birthday
on the seventh of January this year. I did my primary and sec-
ondary schooling at Pointe Noire and Dolisie. After secondary school I
trained as a domestic electrician at Dolisie. My contact with the Spiritans
began in 1982 when I was a member of the choir at Our Lady of Fatima's
Church in Dolisie. I was attracted by the community life of the Spiritan
fathers in the parish there. Getting to know something of the history of
the Congregation of the Holy Spirit drew me immediately to the choice
of becoming a religious brother, something I considered to be a real wit-
ness to missionary dynamism at the service of the Church. After doing
two years as an aspirant, I was sent by Fr. Joseph WoUenschneider, su-
perior in the Congo district, to Impfondo for an experience of community
life in the parish of St. Paul, where the parish priest was Fr. Jean Gardin,
the present Prefect Apostolic of Likouala. For one year I worked part-
time as an electrician with a Brazilian company called Andrade Guiter-
rez which was constructing the Ongou-Epena road, and in the afternoons
I was involved in pastoral activities such as the choir, teaching catechism,
and preparing liturgies, ft was for me a true beginning in the apostolic life
as envisaged by Fr. Libermann. After this experience I was admitted into
the novitiate at Mbalmayo where I stayed for two years, from 1985 to
1987: one preparatory year and one year of novitiate. I took my first vows
on the 8* of September 1987.
After novitiate I was sent to the district of Cameroon, to Yagoua to
be exact, in the extreme north, for a missionary experience in the Spiri-
tan community of the cathedral of the diocese. In the community we were
four in number, Gerard Sireau being the parish priest and superior. I was
responsible for the youth (action Catholique and catechetical groups) and
worked in the promotion of rural agricultural methods in the villages
around Yagoua, after having followed a course run by a Spanish agron-
omist who was coming to the end of his stay in Cameroon. This work in
the agricultural sector was a very enriching time for me from the pas-
toral and community aspect. I learnt a lot from the farmers in the three
years I spent in this region in the extreme north where there is a dry sea-
son of nine months and a rainy season of three months; the people were
disadvantaged on many levels but very welcoming nonetheless. Millet is
the main crop and the staple food; there is widespread cattle-raising, mar-
ket-gardening and cultivation of rice during the dry season.
My situation as a brother was not well understood despite all my ef-
forts at an explanation, for the Christians never saw me celebrating Mass
or administering the sacraments. However, they were happy with what
I was doing. Not being able to articulate well my first name, Jean-
Claude, they gave me the nickname "Sans Culotte" and that stayed with
me all the time I was with them. I worked a lot with the Massa people
and my only regret was that I was not able to learn their language, which
was, in effect, quite difficult to learn. Our community life revolved
around our meetings and prayer times, as we had to do an assessment of
our respective activities. We got on very well with the Spiritan Sisters
who were our neighbours and who took part in some pastoral and parish
activities with us.
From Yagoua, I was appointed to the Centre for Vocational Anima-
tion at Yaounde by Fr. Daniel Henry, the then superior of the district of
Yaounde, to replace Fr. Nicolas Gobina who had been transferred to Li-
breville. I lived in community with Fathers Jean Paul Le Borgne and
Pierre Schmidt who was in charge of the parish of St. Pierre de Kong; in
my second year there after Fr. J.P. Le Borgne left, I was with Fr. Gerard
Parquet. My main work was with aspirants to the Spiritan life and I also
gave a hand at teaching catechism in the parish. I organized a meeting
once a month for the aspirants to teach them about the congregation and
there was an annual meeting on the religious and missionary life. The
number of aspirants varied between fifty and sixty. There were also
monthly meetings, initiated by Fr. Nicolas Gobina, - called "Vocational
Mornings"- for all the aspirants to male and female religious Congrega-
tions present in Yaounde to reflect on the religious life and the life of the
Church. The two years I spent in the Centre (1990 to 1992) were for me
another rich experience of missionary life. I was in the first group of the
ITPR - The Institute of Pastoral Theology for Religious. Even for the
aspirants I was involved with, I met the same kind of questions regard-
ing the brother's vocation: "What is the place of the brother in the Con-
gregation and the Church?"
After this experience accompanying young people in Yaounde, I was
asked by the superiors to help the young people in the novitiate as sub-
novice master, with Fr. Etienne Osty as novice master and Fr. Jacques
de Laville as bursar. For one year, Fr. Etienne asked me to give some
courses on religious life and also to give spiritual direction to some of the
novices. For me it was like a second novitiate, because in forming the
novices I was forming myself Then, at the end of this year I was asked
to do a course in formation for novice masters and novice mistresses at
Chevilly Larue in France. So, I stayed in France doing this course from
1993 to 1994 and I lived in community with the philosophers in the
Province of France, whose superior was Fr. Philippe Rivals. As well as
the courses I followed, I prepared children for reception of the sacra-
ments in a nearby college. Through this course I deepened my knowledge
of the religious life and vocational discernment and the need for listen-
ing and accompanying young people in their formation. At the end of
this year I went back to Mbalmayo at the request of my superiors, as sub-
novice master and bursar from 1994 to 2001. 1 took up the same activi-
ties: bursar (after Fr. Jacques De Laville left), spiritual accompaniment
and courses on the religious life. In 1996 Fr. Etienne Osty was recalled
to France and Fr. Yves Nzoussi became the new novice master. During
my time at the novitiate I was on the Central African Foundation coun-
cil representing the brothers. In 1999 Fr. Yves was sent to do further stud-
ies and Fr. Raymond Jung came as novice master. This means that during
my time as a formator in the novitiate I had to work with three different
novice masters. This was a great richness for me on several levels. Being
a formator in the novitiate is very demanding because you have to keep
to the novices' daily rhythm; this also means you yourself have to be an
example at manual labour, animal husbandry and gardening. Misunder-
standings and difficulties are not lacking but prayer can help to overcome
these. With help from friends, above all in Europe, we were able con-
struct a piggery, a chicken run, ten extra rooms for the novices and a
chapel. All the time I was in the novitiate our neighbours took me for a
novice, not understanding my status as a religious brother and they made
fun of me thinking that I was repeating the novitiate every year. This did
not worry me or give me any complexes because there had been other
brothers before me and I felt that persevering in this witness as a brother
could prove to them the importance of such an option. I did not feel un-
comfortable in any way with my priest -confreres. After this very rich ex-
perience in the novitiate, Fr. Azegue, Provincial superior at the time,
asked me to go to Douala; I accepted this proposal with a heavy heart, so
much had the love of the formation of the young confreres become a part
On the 5* of January 2001, 1 arrived at the Mission Procure in Douala
together with Fr. Raymond Jung; my time there was a little difficult, most
of all because of the heat of Douala. Once again I started learning new
things, this time from Fr. Joachim Abellan who was the procurator and
community superior. Among other things, I was put in charge of buying
air tickets for all the priests and religious of Douala archdiocese and the
whole central African sub-region. At the same time I did a course in Eng-
lish organized by the British Council and three months later an evening
course in computers run by the de La Salle Brothers in their college. Dur-
ing the day, Fr Joachim Abellan taught me about book-keeping, basing
himself on the financial services of the Procure, where many clients used
to deposit or withdraw their money. Even though I had been the bursar
in the novitiate for a long time, I had to keep very accurate records so as
to avoid any shortfall of cash in the various accounts held. In April 2002
the Provincial Council proposed that I go to Rome to do a one month
course in accounting, and this helped me a lot in getting to know more
about keeping accounts and managing money. I continued to work at the
Procure when I returned to Douala. We were four in the community and
we shared community life with the confreres of the Provincial team, as
we still do today. In July 2002 Fr. Abellan was appointed to the French
Seminary in Rome and the out-going Provincial Council at the time (it
was the year when Fr. Lambert Ndjana was elected Provincial) asked me
to take over the job of Procurator, which I did so reluctantly. I asked for
someone to help me in the job but because of lack of personnel, the
Provincial Council gave me an Indian co-operant sent by FIDESCO
France who was an accountant. We worked together for two years. When
this man left, the Superiors sent the late Fr. Eric Achille to help me and
he combined this with being the assistant Provincial bursar and later
Provincial bursar. We worked together for three years and then I asked
Brother Jean-Baptiste Essomba to come and help me because I could not
do the work by myself. We were offering a wide service to the local
Church and to the sub-region, so two people were needed for a task that
was sometimes quite delicate. Through our financial, accommodation
and travel services we provided a valuable service to the local Churches
and certain lay organizations as well. It was a commitment of the whole
community. At the moment we are an international community of four -
one from Congo-Brazzaville, two from Cameroun and one from Nether-
lands, plus a young confrere on placement from Gabon. Our daily life
revolves around our prayer in common, meals, meetings, sharing about
our work and mutual support in our various responsibilities. We also ac-
commodate confreres who come to Douala for one reason or another.
I still say to be a Procurator and to deal with confreres and clients at
the same time is not an easy task. It requires tact on a relational level be-
cause the need to be efficient could make us forget what is essential to our
religious life, which is service to others while taking into account their
different characters. Being in the Procure you need to be able to listen,
to be patient and attentive, and to be up to date and accurate especially
when dealing with other peoples' money. I am always aware of the pos-
sibility of making a mistake and that means I have to concentrate on the
work at hand and always be punctual and available. What I appreciate is
the immense number of congregations which ask for our help in making
financial transactions and the confidence they have in us. My vocation as
a brother is better accepted here than elsewhere because there are three
of us brothers in the community, even though some people are still con-
fused and address me as "Father" rather than "Brother". This does not
worry me but gives me the chance to explain what it means for me to be
a Spiritan brother - it is not like being a second class citizen, but it is the
expression of a deliberate choice of a special way of being a Spiritan re-
NRJ (^'Energy') Centre Madagascar - August 1991 to August 2006
I came to the NRJ centre at the request of the superiors of the Districts
of Madagascar and Mauritius, where I was living since 1986.
Vincent Chopard had set up a drop-in centre in the capital city for
teenagers in difficulty at the end of 1987. From six to seven in the be-
ginning, the number rapidly rose to about forty a year and a half later.
Vincent asked for help from his confreres; those in Madagascar could
not easily free themselves from their work so he sent out an appeal to
the other districts of the Indian Ocean.
I arrived at the NRJ centre on the 20^^ of August 1991. My first im-
pressions will always remain with me even though I had visited Vincent
and the youths the previous year. The centre is cramped but right in the
middle of the neighbourhood; it is full of lively young people. The little
streets and houses roundabout are dirty and unkempt, except for a few
buildings. The meals in the centre are simple, one could say almost fru-
gal, but all is movement, noise, shouting, singing and smiling - an im-
pressive sign of vitality! I finally 'fell' for this world of restless youths
whom I found to be friendly and welcoming.
During my first days there I visited the surrounding area with some
of the youths and I joined in their games, especially basketball, and went
with them a few times to a show - they really love singing!
For those who wanted it, I offered some classes in French and Eng-
lish. I spent a lot of time at this using a simple method and with the help
of one youth who was quite good at French and who also taught me some
Malgache. In such a situation I did feel a little frustrated and a bit like a
child, not knowing anything of the Malgache culture. I used to help the
youths a little in their garden. My life was thus balanced between com-
munity prayer, meals, learning Malgache and visiting Foyer Laval each
As time went on I began to get involved in other activities: teaching
catechism in the French secondary school, setting up an education pro-
gramme adapted for street children, visiting the farm 25 kilometres out-
side Antananarivo and jogging on Sundays with some ex-patriate friends.
But my most important work was looking after the daily needs of our
neighbours and being present all the time to the youths, day and night, the
whole week long.
There were many visitors and I often had to entertain them, but such
contacts were very valuable for us and the young people and for the vis-
itors themselves. I could not get away from a lot of different meetings
here and there.
Briefly, during my fifteen years there, many people passed through
the centre, there was a lot of building, moving rooms, health problems,
changes of confreres and teams - especially in the latter years. When I
left Madagascar on the 14* of August 2006, 1 took with me many mem-
ories of the people, our friends and our neighbours.
When I think over these life experiences two or three reflections
come to mind.
I was welcoming many visitors, but above all young people and our
close neighbours, informally, on a daily basis and on special occasions
like feasts, visits and important meetings, ft was time consuming and re-
quired availability and flexibility, and though enriching in some ways,
could be the occasion for misunderstandings or problems; but they were
moments for a deeper encounter with people.
Slowly and with difficulty I became a 'go-between' passing among
groups and people who only met each other rarely and from afar. I
thought of the young pupils from the French secondary school who spent
half a day with the youths in the centre; my jogging friends of different
nationalities running on the mounds that encircled the neighbourhood. I
thought of my friends and relatives who had visited as well - my niece
and friend who lived for four months at the NRJ centre, and many oth-
ers who were curious, irritated, enthusiastic, happy. . .
It seemed to me that an essential dimension was the witness my con-
freres were giving of their Hves in the service of others and of God. We
had prayer together, shared our resources, experienced friendship and
mutual respect; this is a "witness' carried out in the long term and in sim-
ple, everyday things.
I think there is no specific spirituality for brothers. I believe I lived
these years as a Spiritan, in imitation of John the Baptist, of Joseph and
Mary- the prophet, the humble servant and the one who kept all these
things in her heart. But above all, with Christ as our true model.
BROTHER OLIVER DOWLING
The following is a letter in response to a questionnaire sent out
around the Congregation asking questions about how we might
promote the vocation of brother in the Congregation. In it we
can appreciate the deep faith and balanced views of a man now
great in years who gave the best years of his life working in Kim-
mage making sure that everybody had enough to eat in the days
when vocations were very numerous indeed.
Dear Fr Kingston,
Thank you for your letter, inst. I found it interesting and encour-
aging although I do not agree fully with all its contents. My neg-
ative attitude is influenced by the liberal outlook of society in
Ireland today, its materialism, consumerism and the general prosperity
that is so evident. Of course there are many good people but I fear few
young people would be attracted to the life of a CSSp Brother. There is
so much freedom, so much choice it is difficult to see young people at-
tracted to restrictions of religious life. On the other hand, there are some
who seem to feel the need for peace and quiet, their lifestyle is not always
Now to make some comments: It is true that we Brothers have, in
general, made a fair contribution to the work of the Congregation. Many
were indeed holy men. It is true that prior to Vatican II we had some le-
gitimate grievances but, by and large, we knew what we were taking on
and were content with our lot and aware of what we had to offer both
spiritually and materially.
To the best of my knowledge, Pere des Places founded a clerical
group. The Holy Ghost Fathers, and later Fr. Libermann founded his
group and it was Fr. Libermann who introduced the Brothers mainly, I
think, to keep the priests in their work of evangeHsation. It was with this
idea in mind that many joined as Brothers in the early and middle of the
last century. They did not aspire to administrative or High Office.
Brothers, as we know them in clerical institutions, had their origin, I
think, in the Cistercian Order of Monks. St. Bernard joined the Cister-
cians and encouraged many of his relations (noblemen) to join also. He
looked at his own home and saw the peasants who worked there and he
decided to give them the opportunity to become monks and work in the
monastery. He called them Brothers.
I fully understand that times have changed and changed very much
(too much perhaps) and we have to adapt to the new outlook. I would
not like to see the clerical aspect diluted unduly. Perhaps it has already
gone too far and a Church without priests, a clerical body, would not be
the Church founded by Jesus Christ. Of course Brothers will always have
a place in the Congregation and in the mind of Fr. Libermann to assist the
priest - not to branch out into a separate grouping. I must remind you
that in the early 1950s, the Irish Province made a very big effort to recruit
and train young men to become Brothers. Many very fme young men
joined and were given an excellent training but somehow few stayed.
Some thoughtful confreres have said they were not given the opportuni-
ties to exercise their skills and talents and it was a time when there were
openings for well-trained men. We did meet some of them at the Golden
Jubilee celebrations in the June celebrations in Ardbraccan. They did be-
come good laymen, appreciated the training they received.
As I have said, I do not see an opening for Holy Ghost Brothers in the
Irish scene. Some say a new form of consecrated life may develop to
meet the many needs of today's troubled society.
It is most likely Brothers will have a place in the New Provinces and
find fulfilment as we did in the old Provinces.
In conclusion, I wonder has the rather disappointing manner in which
some of our priests dress themselves have its origin in the downgrading
of their clerical status. I suggested it is in the maimer in which we live our
lives and present ourselves that will best present the gospel message. We
need to avoid carelessness in our personal life and on the other hand a
show of wealth is equally unacceptable. A happy medium between abun-
dance and want.
I regret I was unable to respond by the 3 P* January. I am not sure my
ideas will be of much value. I am probably out of date and I know you
make allowance for my advanced age.
Sincerely in CSSp,
Br. Oliver CSSp.
BEING A BROTHER IN A CLERICAL
Brother Javier Blanco, CSSp.
There are many years and situations that separate us from our
founders, but in my opinion, the spirit they wished to disseminate
was foreseeable from the beginning. In the Holy Spirit Seminary,
PouUart des Places received three employees - a cook, a shoemaker and
a tailor - for whom working standards and living allowances were pre-
pared in accordance with the proper environment for a formation centre
of clergymen. In the Work for the Blacks it was Le Vavasseur who early
on, drew the profile of what would later become the brother in the Con-
gregation, a task that Libermann had already begun to prepare, through
a consultation with confreres.
It is in taking as a point of departure these beginnings of the Con-
gregation and my own experience of life as a member of it, that I want
to share my personal witness as a Spiritan Brother, convinced as I am
that the services I have rendered during my fifty five years of consecra-
tion in a religious institute like ours, responds to the aspirations which
have always been my own for my ftiU human development as a mis-
It was during the Marian Year of 1954, when, with all my enthusiasm,
I entered the Brothers' Novitiate in Fraiao, Braga, in Portugal. My form-
ative years included the postulancy, the novitiate, my first profession and
my eventual appointment to missionary animation work in Madrid.
In 1965, the establishment of the Missionary Animation Centre of
Barcelona was entrusted to me and two other confreres (priests). I was
tending to all the material aspects of the community: purchases, kitchen,
clothes, etc. Later, with the development of the Centre, I was commit-
ted ftill time to missionary animation and to administration, also con-
tributing to the foundation of the formation house, that is, the Seminary
of San Cugat, in Barcelona.
At that time, the Province of Spain was estabhshed and it was then
that I was appointed Provincial Bursar, bringing about my change to
Madrid. A house was being buik in Castrillo de la Vega - Aranda del
Duero, in Burgos, and I was to oversee these works. Once the construc-
tion was completed, the novitiate was set up in it and I accepted the post
of bursar of the new community. Later I was nominated Superior and
bursar of the same community, until the rehabilitation centre began to
A few years passed and a new mission was confided to me: Director
and Bursar of the residence of non-Spiritan students, which operated in
the San Cugat del Valles Seminary, in Barcelona.
Throughout these years, I was member of the Provincial Council for
A new stage
With more than 30 years of service, several in the Province of Spain,
I was granted a special year to take an intensive course in missiology
which, together with another course in catechetics, was of great benefit
to me when I eventually left for mission 'ad extra'.
I went with great enthusiasm, but also with some concern - being 50
years of age, what could I do in the missions. . .? I was given the chance
to get to know our missions in Tefe, Amazonia, and Paraguay. Paraguay
ended up being my vocation.
Several months after my arrival, the International Spiritan Group of
Paraguay celebrated its first chapter and I was elected bursar of the
Group. This meant that after a small course in the Guarani language, and
many months in the mission in Lima, in the diocese of San Pedro, I had
to return to the capital, Asuncion, for a new task. The job left me some
free time to join in youth ministry in the Spiritan Parish of Mariano
Roque Alonso, near Asuncion; it was the kind of work I was already in-
volved in while at Lima.
Some of the youth who took part in youth ministry had enquired
about entering the Congregation, so I was mandated to open a small novi-
tiate in a house rented from a Congregation of Religious Sisters. Later the
new Libermann Novitiate was established, and I became responsible for
At the second Chapter of the Group I was elected Superior and re-
elected three years later.
I have to say that the whole time I was in Paraguay was rich and full
of surprises, but what gave me particular joy was receiving the first
Paraguayan members into the Congregation.
As representative of the Group of Paraguay, I was given the oppor-
tunity to participate in the Enlarged General Council of Dakar, Senegal,
in 1995 and in the General Chapter of 1998 in Maynooth, Ireland. These
have certainly been experiences of great responsibility, yet memorable
Again in Spain
Requested to work again in the Province of Spain, my first mission
was as bursar of the formation house, thus becoming a member of the
formation team and collaborating in Spiritan Family Animation.
After some time I was again elected Provincial Bursar, Provincial
House Bursar and First Provincial Assistant.
Currently, I am Superior and bursar of the formation house, member
of the formation team, mission procurator, assistant to the Provincial Bur-
sar, member of Spiritan Family Animation and also representative of the
Province of Spain for the new Spiritan Community of the Union of Cir-
cumscriptions of Europe, in Castrillo de la Vega and of the ADROGA
I see that I do not lack work or the will to do so, but I must be real-
istic and prepare for the final stage of my life; first thanking the Lord of
the harvest for all the good I have received and secondly, thanking the
Congregation for always having welcomed me and encouraged my poor
I do not know if I contributed much or little; it is clear that we can al-
ways give more where we are, but there is one thing I am sure of: the
Spiritan Community has always given me strength, because where there
is charity and love, there is God.
A MISSIONARY IN BRUSSELS
For twenty years I worked in the health service of the Democratic
RepubHc of the Congo (R.D.C.), more precisely in Kindu, Kon-
golo and Kabongo. I was responsible for organizing primary health
care and these years have affected me deeply.
I left the Congo voluntarily in 1 999 after having been replaced by a
fellow Congolese doctor whom I had mentored for a while and who sub-
sequently not only continued but developed greatly the work I had begun
right up to the present day. To make myself redundant has been like a
leitmotiv fi^om the beginning of my career and my goal has been attained.
Looking back, I think it is better like this: history and mission have
evolved and my time as a missionary doctor in Africa is over. Since my
return to Europe I have not received any more requests to go back to the
Congo as a doctor.
After a renewal course at the Institute of Tropical Medicine at An-
vers, I was employed in July 2000 by MEMISA Belgium, a Christian-
inspired medium-sized Belgian NGO for medical development
( www.memisa.be ). Its aims correspond closely to those of the Spiritans
- to be at the service of the poor and abandoned. I have worked there
since for four days a week, principally being co-responsible for medical
programmes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Islamic
Republic of Mauritania. So, in a way, I continue my work with Africans
from a distance, even though I do have to spend a few weeks each year
in these two countries. Working at MEMISA means first of all trying to
listen to the local people and respond to their needs; it also means living
from day to day in communication with indigenous health professionals
who put into practice in their countries the programmes agreed in com-
mon. Thus I have the chance to create links and put many people com-
ing from the North and the South in contact with each other.
Subsequently I was joined at MEMISA by another Spiritan, Fr. Joseph
Burgraff, who then became its President!
At the close of the Provincial Chapter in 2003 the Provincial Coun-
cil of Belgium asked me to take over the post of Provincial Co-ordina-
tor for JPIC from Fr. Jos de Backere. I accepted this even though I could
only do it part-time. The Provincial Council gave me a budget of three
thousand euro a year, expecting me to carry out the job while regularly
indicating the areas I should be involved in.
I began by visiting my confreres in the Province once a year to keep
them informed and support them in however small a way, in their JPIC
commitments. At the beginning, because of my lack of experience, my
confreres thought I was coming to interfere in their personal lives or to
recruit them in some enterprise. Gradually however, trust was built up be-
tween us and confreres began to sign petitions, take part in campaigns
like that of Amnesty International for the support of political prisoners
and so on.
After a period of preparation which lasted more than a year, the con-
freres, gathered at the Provincial Chapter of 2006, agreed to commit
themselves to a JPIC plan for the coming four years. The plan included
the following elements:
• care for the sick and elderly confreres in the context of an aging
Province; though still about thirty in total, the average age is
• support for confreres in difficult situations
• giving assistance to refugees and illegal immigrants
• playing a full part in the Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network
In this plan, it was that of 'care for the sick and elderly' which inter-
ested the Province most.
For my own part, I had already been working with the sick for some
years. To be truthful, I was reluctant to leave all contact with the sick and
I began to visit AIDS sufferers in St. Peter's government hospital in Brus-
sels; alas, the head hospital chaplain in Brussels preferred me to go St.
Anne's clinic, a private establishment of the 'classical 'variety which
needed volunteers. Eventually, to be more in line with the action plan of
the 2006 chapter, I left this visiting of the sick and committed myself to
working with reftigees and illegal immigrants. This was hard for me to
do because I loved visiting the sick and I had become accustomed to the
atmosphere in St. Anne's clinic.
It is estimated there are about 100,000 illegal immigrants in Belgium
and they are among the most abandoned people of our society; they have
no rights whatsoever except that of medical help in cases of serious sick-
ness - many of them are afraid to seek this as their presence then be-
comes known. Illegal immigrants are just like 'non-persons', ghosts who
have no other option to survive but to work clandestinely in conditions
which are often sub-human. I got involved as a volunteer in the Belgian
branch of Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS Belgium). Through this NGO I
was able to make friendly visits to three detention centres where failed
asylum seekers awaited repatriation or return to the EU country where
they made their first request for asylum (the so-called "Dublin proce-
dure"). These people, who had committed no crime against anyone,
strongly resented being locked up and could not understand why. The
fact that someone was ready to visit them and listen to them was a sign
that someone cared about them and gave them a dignity which the whole
process of seeking asylum completely denied them. I would not like to
elaborate on the violence some of them suffered and the violations of
human rights they were subjected to at various times of their detention -
above all at the time of their expulsion from the country. Is it not under-
standable that some of them go on hunger strike, mutilate themselves
and attempt suicide?
Another aspect of my involvement was the part I played in the Bel-
gian branch of AEFJN; our aim was to lobby the European Union con-
cerning many of its decisions which could have harmftil effects on fragile
African economies. Once again I came in touch with Africa, but this time
in the role of a European citizen working against the structural causes of
under-development. To engage in lobbying is similar to working like an
ant - often you are completely unaware as to whether your efforts have
borne any fiiiit for 'distant neighbours' you are defending and with whom
you have no direct contact. But what is encouraging for lobbyists is work-
ing together: our branch was one of thirteen and had about twenty mem-
bers, part of the wider network of AEFJN branches in Europe made up
of about fifty missionary congregations. Our knowledge of the grass-
roots is appreciated at the heart of the European structures which we tar-
get; political representatives and European functionaries take note of
what we say and seek our expertise, because, unlike lobbyists working on
behalf of an enterprise, missionaries have no profit motive. Never yet
has the little cross I wear round my neck proved to be an obstacle in this
The ten European Spiritan JPIC Provincial Co-ordinators meet every
year in their commission to share their experiences and work out how to
be more effective. At the request of my fellow Co-ordinators, I agreed to
ensure the continuity of the commission for two mandates of three years;
Fr. Jean-Pierre Gaillard helped me in this task which I felt at first was
completely beyond me. Then, with the creation of the Union of Circum-
scriptions of Europe (UCE) and the setting up of Circumscription Eu-
rope in 2006, I realized the need to organize and co-ordinate our
commitments on a European level, and I proposed to the European
Provincials that they create the post of European Co-ordinator, charged
with establishing a permanent office for Spiritan lobbying in Brussels
and with supporting the European JPIC Provincial Co-ordinators, some
of whom existed in name only; after a long period of discernment, the
UCE accepted this proposal.
In Brussels there are also meetings of Christian-Muslim dialogue
groups which I sometimes attend but am not very active in. My visits to
Mauritania for MEMISA inspired in me a great respect for the Muslims
I met, some of whom have become friends. There is much discussion in
the Belgian Province concerning Islam in Europe and I make my contri-
bution based on my concrete experiences of this group in Brussels. One
confrere has made attempts at dialogue with an Imam and we sometimes
talk about this together. During the European Spiritans' JPIC Commis-
sion meetings, the subject of Islam often arises, but progress remains to
be made on this without delay.
I give thanks to God who has chosen me "to serve in his presence";
I am happy as a brother to fulfil, with all my limitations, the tasks he has
given me to do. I aim at being of service to Africans while staying in Eu-
rope, in my case in Brussels, because it is there that I am committed and
there that I meet missionary situations lacking labourers. Such mission-
ary situations are recognized by our chapters and by the Congregation,
and it is precisely there that I can be most useful for Africans, for the
Church and for the Congregation.
Mariano Espinoza belongs to Paraguay International Group. In
this article he writes on his involvement as a brother in the refugee
ministry in Tanzania.
In 1998 I finished my theological studies in Brazil. In May 1999 1 set off
for Montreal, in Quebec, Canada to do a training course in the Montreal
Institute of Integral Human Formation, which speciaHzes in giving a ho-
listic formation to students.
During the three years of the course I had the opportunity to strike up re-
lationships with people from the African continent. In the therapy ses-
sions on traumatic stress, which took place in groups, I had my first
contact with the dramatic experiences of the inhabitants of the Great
Lakes area of Central Africa: organized massacres, rape, genocide, eth-
nic persecution etc. These resulted in thousands of people crossing in-
ternational borders looking for refuge. Refugee camps were formed,
offering protection and security to thousands who had fled, many of
whom had escaped certain death.
It was through these contacts that I began to have an interest in making
a contribution to helping the victims of this cruel past. On finishing my
studies, and after making final vows, I asked, as my first appointment
(now called mission appointment), to be part of a Spiritan team working
in the refugee camps of Tanzania.
The community ofNyakitonto
In July 2003 I arrived in Tanzania, a country of which I was completely
ignorant. Africa! The continent Libermann dreamed of! I too was full of
dreams, hopes and desires to work there - on mission and for the mission.
I had faith in the future and in Him who brought me to Tanzania, the God
of life, the universal God.
In February 2004, after some months of learning Swahili, the language
common to all Tanzanians, I joined the Spiritan Refugees Service (SRS)
team, in the community in Nyakitonto.
The Community of Nyakitonto! A real face, reflecting the contemporary
reality of the Holy Spirit Congregation. Diversity, dialogue, different cul-
tures, languages and characters. . . being forged into a harmony of feeling
and common vision: the fleshing out in our lives of the ideas of Poullart
des Places and Francis Libermann, the twin poles of reference in our
Spiritan calling. What struck me right from the beginning was the com-
munity's simplicity and capacity to adapt to the surroundings. These are
aspects that make us proud of being Spiritans.
The Nyakitonto community serves as a home-base for us who form the
team that works with the refugees in the Kigoma region. Our physical
space is different from the daily reality of the camps, thus allowing us to
be present in a more effective way. If it weren't for this we would be
swallowed up by the problems of the refugees and might run the risk of
bum-out. Our community is where we fmd support; it is like a spring
that refreshes us, giving us strength, energy and faith for our insertion in
the refugees' milieu.
The Refugee Camps
There is something hard, cruel and dehumanizing about these camps, yet
at the same time they provide a refuge, security and home for thousands
of people who have fled the clutches of one of the greatest and most
shameful plagues of humanity: genocide. In the 20* century many coun-
tries experienced the horror of genocide, particularly in Africa.
Burundi, a small country in the heart of Africa, is a sad example of this.
It neighbours, Tanzania, which has taken in thousands of Burundian
refugees, setting up camps especially for them. These are well set up and
controlled by the Tanzanian authorities and administered by the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The refugees can-
not travel freely in Tanzania, they have to live within the parameters of
the camp and they can only go out if they have a permit from the Min-
istry of Home Affairs. About 45,000 people live within an area of some
six by three km. It is easy to see how an individual in this situation must
feel cramped in his personal development and restricted in the exercise
of his freedom. His capacity to take initiatives and be creative, to plan for
the friture and develop his qualities and talents - in a word, to grow as a
human being in all his frillness - is severely limited. Such people, hav-
ing no name and no identity, are classed by a word, by a name that is not
a name: Refugees. This context makes them permanently vulnerable and
even determines their way of looking at the world and at life, of living in
society and relating to others. It even influences the very way they see
God and relate to Him.
The Refiigee Camp is a very special context, a unique reality. We have
been present in this world of the refugee for more than ten years. I have
been in this ministry for six years now. We came in obedience to a call,
in an effort to respond to a sign of the times in the contemporary world.
The phenomenon of refugees is a cry disturbing our consciences and
clamouring for a response.
Many are the challenges we have to face up to if we want to continue in
the midst of these people. But with faith and hope we wish to be a sign
of solidarity and to try and be witnesses to Jesus of Nazareth, whose pri-
ority was always the poor. I want to be able to dream that one day the
world will awake without refugees and that each human being might find
the place where he belongs to be able to live in dignity in this big house,
In the last few General Chapters the Congregation has shown great sen-
sitivity to the new realities and challenges facing our contemporary
world. The phenomenon of refugees is one of them.
In the effort to make our charism real in the world of today the Congre-
gation decided to make work with refugees a priority. It is a need that
demands a response from us, it is humanity crying out to us, it is a situ-
ation of human and material poverty that demands our urgent attention.
At the origin of our Congregation, both PouUart des Places and Francis
Libermann were sensitive to situations in the civil society and in the
Church which needed a response. The reality of refugees is a whole bun-
dle of needs: suffering, poverty, misery, injustice. . . a situation of extreme
vulnerability, that is, a missionary terrain ideally suited to Spiritans.
It is in this context that we are trying to live out our Spiritan charism, I
as a Brother in what I bring that is special, and my confreres who bring
what is special to them as priests, in close collaboration and comple-
mentarity. The specific function of each one, far from widening the gap
between us, is a source of enrichment and a reason for giving praise. Be-
yond the specificity of functions is the very reason for our being, our life
option: TO BE SPIRITAN. Cor unum et anima una.
Brother MARIANO ESPINOZA CSSP
MY JOURNEY TO THE RELIGIOUS LIFE
The author tells about himself, his personal and pastoral experience and
how he became a spiritan brother. He also shares with us the challenges
and the joys that he has encountered since becoming brother
My name is Constant Tagyang. I was bom on 19* September
1970 in a farming village called Fielmuo in the North Western
comer of Ghana, West Africa. I was the fifth child often chil-
dren of my parents, four boys and six girls. I was baptised at infancy into
the Catholic faith and was brought up in the Catholic tradition. I had my
primary and the then middle school education in my village, St. Paul's
Catholic Primary School and St. Paul's Catholic Middle School between
1976 and 1986.
I got the desire (vocation) to the religious life at the age of 1 6 when I
was in middle school form four. One may ask how it all happened. Very
simple! It was at the end of the third term in middle school form four
that our Geography teacher announced to the whole class that he was
going to join the Brothers of the Immaculate Conception, otherwise
known as the FIC Brothers. At that moment something indescribable per-
meated through my whole body. A feeling I have never experienced be-
fore engulfed my entire being. Yes, that is the beginning of a tuming
point in my life at that tender age. My joumey towards the religious life
had begun though I dare not mention it to my parents at that stage for
fear that they might rebuke me for conceiving such an idea that was not
culturally popular in our society. Thus I hid the idea away from my par-
ents and friends while I continued to deepen my affection for the reli-
gious life secretly. After completing middle school, I gained admission
in 1987 to a TechnicalA^ocational Institute that was mn by the FIC Broth-
ers to specialise in Furniture Design and Construction and General Wood-
work. Meanwhile, my desire towards the religious life was still on the as-
cendancy and cannot remain a secret forever. Consequently, I informed
the Vocations Coordinator of the FIC Brothers in the school about my
future plans and subsequently I was enrolled into the aspirancy pro-
gramme of the FIC Brothers. All this while my parents were still not in
the know about what I intended to do with my life. It was during our first
term holidays in my first year at the school that I had to gather courage
to inform my father about my desire to embrace the religious life after
school. His response was spontaneous: "You are free to do so if that is
what you want". I felt so elated and excited and breathed a sigh of relief
At long last I have crossed the last hurdle that was in front of me and the
way is now cleared of obstacles for me to start treading the path towards
what I so much desired, the religious life.
How I became a Spiritan:
I graduated from the TechnicalA^ocational Institute in 1990. Between
1990 and 1991 I was working with a Lebanese Contractor in my home
Region of Wa in Carpentry and Joinery. It was during this period that I
met the first Spiritans who happened to come from the same Region as
me. This was on a Sunday morning at Holy Mass when I spotted the two
young men dressed in white soutanes with black ropes (cinctures) tied
round their waists. I was immediately moved and attracted by their mode
of dress and was curious to find out who they were and to what order
they belonged. After Holy Mass I had a chat with them and they told me
all about the Spiritans. I became more inclined towards the Spiritans at
the mention that they are religious as well as missionaries. That mis-
sionary Spirit dominated my whole being in my discernment process and
that in turn strengthened my zeal for the religious life. Hence, I wrote to
the Vocations Director of the Spiritans expressing my desire to be part of
that unique family. Eventually I was enlisted into the Spiritan Aspirancy
Programme where I had the opportunity to meet other aspirants on En-
counter Days (Come and See Programmes). These encounter days helped
to deepen and solidify my aspirations for the religious and missionary
life. During this period of aspirancy with the Spiritans, the Vocations Di-
rector paid me a visit in Wa and among other issues discussed were my
readiness to begin Postulancy (Pre -Novitiate) the coming year. I was
filled with joy by that visit and I also felt honoured that the Vocations
Director had to travel many miles to visit me in my nothingness. Indeed
I was humbled by that visit and I felt in a similar way as Elizabeth felt
when Mary visited her after the Angel had brought her the Good News.
cf Lk. 1:43. Towards the end of 1991 I received an invitation letter to
begin the Postulancy Programme the following year. I was over-joyed
with the content of the letter and I started to make the necessary prepa-
rations for that. I must mention that before I left to begin the Postulancy
Programme, I had met with the Vocations Director of the FIC Brothers
to inform him about the new development that had taken place in my dis-
cernment process. He was very happy about my choice and he encour-
aged me to go ahead with the Spiritans.
In January 1992, 1 began the Postulancy Programme (Pre-Novitiate) in
Kumasi, Ghana. We were seven in number and I was the only brother
candidate in the group. However, everything was done in common. It
was interesting but very often challenging. Being the only Northerner
and also the only brother candidate in the group, many occasions I had
to be very assertive in order to feel part of the same group. There were
moments I really felt lonely and always wondered whether or not I would
continue. I went through some form of identity crisis at the very begin-
ning of my initial formation. I began to ask myself a series of questions
inwardly: Is it because I am the only Northerner that I am not fitting well
into the group? Is it because I am the only brother candidate? Have I
made a mistake by joining a clerical Congregation? Would I be better fit-
ted in an all Brother Congregation? I could not find the answers to these
questions and I could not discuss them with someone I could confide in
- a friend or a Spiritual Director. I had not had a friend yet nor a Spiri-
tual Director with whom I could share my fears and isolation. In fact,
throughout the Postulancy year I never had Spiritual Direction. The Vo-
cations Director who had admitted me and my colleagues to the Postu-
lancy had left the Congregation for good before we reported to begin the
programme. The news of his departure from the Congregation had cre-
ated a vacuum in my life. This is because he encouraged and urged me
on to continue my vocation to the brotherhood. In my confused state, I
felt let down by the Vocations Director. I could not imagine how some-
one who had been instrumental and inspirational in my vocation had sud-
denly left the very Congregation that he had been encouraging me to join.
Nonetheless, with determination and prayer I went through the Postu-
lancy Programme successftilly, though with some difficulties. Five out of
the seven postulants were recommended to go to the Novitiate and I was
among the five that were recommended.
My group went to the Novitiate at Ejisu, near Kumasi, Ghana, joined by
others from Nigeria (Makurdi) and Sierra Leone respectively. In total we
were ten novices and I was still the only brother candidate. There in the
Novitiate, the situation was different for me. I was having Spiritual Di-
rection once every week as did everyone else. My Novice Master had al-
ways encouraged me never to feel inferior simply because I was a brother
candidate. He had always advised me to be content with my vocation.
Sometimes he tried to tell me some of the great works that had been done
by brothers in the Congregation and that was a source of great inspira-
tion for me in my vocation. In fact, I integrated better in the Novitiate
group than in the Pre-Novitiate group. I made my first profession on 8^^
After my first vows I proceeded to the Spiritan Institute of Philosophy,
also in Ejisu, Ghana, where I pursued philosophical studies for one year.
In the community I was appointed the chief refectorian and some of my
responsibilities included: Going to markets and shops to buy foodstuffs,
toiletries and drinks for the community. The domestic staff otherwise
known as the kitchen staff was under my jurisdiction. The Philosophy
Community was quite lovely and the environment was more academic.
Despite the academic nature of this stage of my formation, the formators
ensured that apostolic work was integrated into the programme. Thus
certain afternoons in the week we did home visitation in Ejisu and its en-
virons to visit the aged, the sick, those whom society rejects, etc. These
visits brought a lot of relief, a lot of hope and a lot of smiles to those vis-
ited. Though we could not provide for their physical needs but our pres-
ence was always reassuring for them. At least there were people who
were willing to be with them and to listen to their stories. For me it was
an enriching experience and a foundation for my future ministry. It has
made me aware of the need to always make myself available to the needy.
The next item waiting for me in my formation programme after Philos-
ophy was Pastoral Experience Programme (PEP), popularly referred to
as 'Prefecting'. I was appointed to Wukari, Taraba State in Northern
Nigeria. We were three confreres in the Community comprising one Scot-
tish and two Ghanaians. My apostolate there was both Pastoral and So-
cial activities. I was made to manage the community finances as well. In
the Pastoral side I was involved in conducting Communion Service and
bringing Communion to the sick in their homes. I was also involved in
awareness creation on social, moral and religious issues. For example, the
HIV Aids pandemic: its causes and effects on society, teenage pregnancy
and abortion, tribal and religious tolerance, water borne diseases, etc. I
usually travelled to the different outstations with one of the catechists to
show videos on the various themes. However, the video shows were usu-
ally preceded by talks on the issues at stake. I would spend about two to
three days at each station that I visited. During the daytime there were
group sharing and reflection on the movies they had watched. On the last
day before I left each station one of the priest confreres would come and
celebrate Holy Mass with the people. Much as the people had benefited
from these programmes, it was a learning experience for me also. What
I learned from the people through these programmes is helping me a lot
for my own personal development. Another aspect of my apostolate that
I found most intriguing was pastoral evaluation. At the end of every
month the Community met to evaluate the work that each confrere had
done and what had generally gone on in the Community. If there was an
aspect that one needed to work on to improve things, one readily did that.
It was a small community but supportive of each other. There was open-
ness and the views of each confrere were treated with due respect. The
Spirit of oneness was clearly visible in the community. Yes. I will always
have good memories of my Pastoral Experience Programme year and I
remained ever thankful to the two confreres I have lived with there. To a
large extent they made my experience there such a memorable one.
On returning home from my PEP I went to do further courses in Wood-
work after which I was assigned temporarily to one of our Parishes in
Bolgatanga in Northern Ghana in September 1999. We were a commu-
nity of four: one Swiss, one Nigerian and two Ghanaians. Apart from
the normal Sunday Pastoral activities, I was mainly involved with con-
struction work in the Parish. The Parish was fairly new at that time with
a lot of construction work going on. Here also, community meetings and
evaluation of work were very central. My experience in this community
was not too different from my experience during my PER I happily
worked in this Parish for one year and in August 2000 I made my per-
petual vows in the Congregation. Still in temporary appointment I was
transferred from Bolgatanga to the Provincialate Community which was
then in Kumasi. I was looking after the community finances whilst doing
part-time teaching in a Catholic Technical Institute. My experience here
was again different from the previous years. This time I was in a school
situation and had to deal with students and fellow members of staff. I did
this job for one academic year.
In August 2001, 1 had the opportunity to travel to Dublin in the Repub-
lic of Ireland to pursue other courses. I did Interior Design and School
Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care respectively. While in Dublin I lived in
Blackrock College Community. Blackrock College is one of the presti-
gious schools in Dublin that is owned by the Irish Spiritans. It is one of
their schools. While pursuing my courses of studies I was attached to the
Chaplaincy Team and the Technical Department of the College respec-
tively for my internship. The Chaplaincy Team was responsible for or-
ganising masses, recollections, retreats and counselling for the different
year groups and for the college staff. A pastoral programme is drawn up
for each term for the different year groups. I was exposed to the spirit of
team work and collaborative ministry. On the academic side I was teach-
ing Technical Drawing to the third years.
In the community we were over forty confreres. The largest community
I have ever lived in. Most of them had retired from active ministry and
some were semi-retired. A very few confreres were in active ministry.
Most of the retired and semi-retired confreres had worked in the college
their whole lives. Though the community was an aging one but I felt very
much at home with everyone. Of course I had to adapt to the culture and
the environment and that had really helped me to settle in well. The com-
munity tried to ensure that everything was fme with me and I did appre-
ciate the fraternal care and concern exhibited by the confreres. In June
2004 I had completed the programmes I was studying and I returned
home in July 2004.
Mission Appointment (First Appointment):
Before I completed my studies in Dublin I received my First Appoint-
ment letter, now Mission Appointment, from the Generalate. I was ap-
pointed to work in my home Province of WAP. On arrival home from
Dublin I was anxiously waiting for the Provincial and his Council to as-
sign me where to begin my apostolate. However, I had it already in my
mind that I was certainly going to be assigned to a school apostolate.
Guess what happened! That was not the case and it is still not the case.
After my holidays the Provincial told me that he wanted me to take up
the post of Provincial Bursar. I was dazed for a moment before I recov-
ered from my bewilderment. I had never thought that I would one day
work as Provincial Bursar. That thought had never crossed my mind be-
fore. So I asked the Provincial to give me time to think about it and to
reflect over it. I began to consult some confreres about it but my worry
was that I had no knowledge in accounting. Those I had consulted were
all of the view that I take it up. Some, in fact, had told me bluntly that I
do not need a degree in accounting to do bursary work and they contin-
ued to urge me not to decline the offer. Thus I willingly accepted the
job whole heartedly. The next step is to prepare myself for this de-
manding job. Hence arrangements were made for me to go to Rome
where I participated in an intensive eight weeks workshop in account-
ing. In fact, that workshop was of tremendous help to me in carrying
out my responsibilities as bursar. I served the Province in that capacity
for three years.
On the 4^h of February 2008 I took up a new apostolate in Ghana with an
NGO. The name of the NGO is DODZI FOUNDATION. It was started
by a Dutch Social Worker by name: Louise Dorge, who had been work-
ing in Ghana for the past 35 years. She is 75 years old and she wants the
Spiritans to take over the management and ownership of the NGO. How-
ever, she requested that someone should be sent to understudy her for
two years before she finally hands over the project to us. It was based on
her request that I was appointed to that project. The NGO is involved in
the provision of schools, from kindergartens to junior high schools, vo-
cational learning centres and water and sanitation. This is my current
apostolate. It is still a learning period for me and I hope that by the end
of my two years induction period, I will have enough insight to carry on
the goals and aspirations of Dodzi Foundation.
What is the Way Forward?
Looking back on my life as a brother in the Congregation, I would say
there is so much that brothers can do to promote our common good. But
we need to be given the chance and the opportunity to develop our po-
tentials to the full. I am aware some circumscriptions are making every-
thing possible to revitalise the vocation and ministry of brothers but that
should cut across the board. That should be a task for all circumscrip-
tions to try to breathe new life into this branch of the Spiritan family that
is struggling to survive. In order for brothers to reach their full potential,
the Congregation at large should make conscious efforts to redefine the
identity of the brother. We should try to look at the brother of today from
a different angle and with a different mind set than the brother of yester-
day. Please I do not mean to degrade brothers in the older generation but
I am trying to draw our attention to the fact that brothers in the past were
considered more or less 'second class citizens'. I stand to be corrected if
I am wrong. It is unfortunate but this notion or perception is still linger-
ing on in some quarters and if left unchecked, it may continue to deter po-
tential candidates who might have wished to embrace this noble vocation
in the Congregation as brothers. The world is fast moving and we must
be abreast with the changing world. Who in this present generation would
like to join any society that will consider him or her a less important
member? The short fall in the number of candidates aspiring to the broth-
erhood can point to this issue of 'classism'. The vocation of brothers in
the Congregation is at its lowest point and we need to take pragmatic
steps to resuscitate it.
I think it is also time that brothers in the Congregation begin to have re-
gional meetings and one general forum, say every five years, involving
all brothers in the Congregation. This will give them the opportunity to
interact with one another, discuss their common problems and try to find
the way forward. There are other avenues that can be employed to sen-
sitise the vocation of brothers. I believe that with a concerted effort the
vocation of brothers will be brought back to greater heights. We rely on
the co-operation and support of all confreres to realise this goal with the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
BROTHER FRANCIS SULLIVAN
Br Francis Sullivan, 90 passed away in Arusha, Tanzania on March 10,
2009. He was the last brother in the US East Province after 56 years of
missionary apostolate in Tanzania where he was sent in 1953 until his
death. The letter below is being published posthumously.
The following is a letter from Brother Francis Sullivan in response to a
questionnaire sent out round the Congregation asking for ideas about the
promotion of the vocation of brother in the Congregation. In terms of
faith and fidelity and passion for mission the letter speaks for itself and
14 February 2007
Dear Fr. Kingston,
Due to a change in address, I received your letter just a few days
ago. Being late in answering, I'll state a few facts and figures
and ideas and hope you can make something out of this letter,
I've been around for eighty-eight years, and have been working here in
Tanzania for the past fifty-three years, having arrived here when this was
known as Tanganyika Territory. I spent ten years in the diocese of Moshi
constructing all sorts of buildings, churches, schools and what not, what-
ever was needed. I was not trained for this work in any way having
worked as an airplane mechanic for many years. But I was sent out here
from the US East Province to build and that's what I've been doing. But
in any case, after working for ten years in the Moshi Diocese I could see
a well-developed diocese with its own bishop, many priests, sisters and
brothers as well, and I thought to myself "What am I doing here?" But
happily the good Lord heard my prayer and our Provincial Superior ar-
rived one day and told me that I could start work in the Arusha areas.
This was much more in line, as missionaries that we are, with its vast
areas of Masailand . With the people scattered far and wide. With unlim-
ited possibilities for work to be done, there was myself and a German
brother to take care of it. Our dear brother didn't survive very long hav-
ing been out here for many years. So there I was, with so much to do
and, as is still the case today, the only brother on the scene. It has been
very interesting work, however, over more recent years of building up
outstations among the Christian communities, staying for weeks at a time
with my workmen getting churches and houses started with an occasional
visit from the padre.
The work here is really the work of the Congregation, first evange-
lisation, but very few confreres seem to be interested in it. It's very dif-
ficult to find anyone who is willing to stay out with the people. It seems
to be a special calling. Is it because in the training, we don't have those
who have real missionary experience in this work? I don't know the over-
all picture but from what I have seen, this is what I have concluded.
One thing I think should be brought up is the fact that although the
Congregation is committed to bringing the "good news of salvation" to
those who have not heard it or those who have scarcely heard it. How
many are actually engaged in this work? Those who have not heard the
good news are those who are far from the cities and towns, out in the
"boondocks" as they say. I think this problem goes back to the training.
There are people in these far-out places who are very religiously inclined
waiting for someone to help them. I've been working at, trying to build
their churches - great opportunities are lost in these situations.
For missionaries, this is a very satisfying work, being among these
people - if only they knew.
I sincerely feel that if we concentrate our efforts on this main com-
mitment of the Congregation, the good Lord will help us with real mis-
sionary vocations, brothers as well as fathers.
I don't think we can go wrong in following our venerable founder
with his solid training program for religious missionaries based on "union
with God" and his well laid plans for sending these missionaries out to
follow in the footsteps of the Holy Apostles.
Wishing you all the best for our push for brothers,
Br. Francis Sullivan, CSSp.
P.O. Box 80
Mto Wa Mbu
Some reflexions from the group of Pakistan
The Pakistan Group shares with us a reflection of the role that brothers
have always played in their Group especially that of leadership and an-
imation. The reflection underlines that Spiritan vocation comes first re-
gardless of whether one is a brother or a cleric and that it should foster
equality among us.
Our experience in Pakistan has been extremely positive, not being
ordained has never been an appendage but work of the highest
quality has been the rule. There has always been equality and it
has usually been a brother who has been elected as Group leader.
We see in Chapter One of our Rule of Life the vision of our Spiritan vo-
cation and it is non-clerical. The decision to be a Spiritan is primary,
choice of ministry is secondary.
It is the responsibility of those in administration and formation to con-
tinually emphasise this keystone on which we are held together.
Brothers are few in number because of the emphasis on priestly forma-
tion, philosophy and theology, parish administration and sacraments. For-
mation at present does not have other professional courses. A
modification of Spiritan formation is called for, all should have the same
possibilities up to the novitiate. After that one may discern which path to
Different educational standards for entry to the Congregation creates in-
equality, qualifications for entry should be based on the same relative ed-
ucational standard for all.
Our common life our fraternity unite us, we have lost the impact of the
Community living is primary where all are brothers. Different paths are
an enrichment, that is what we have very concretely experienced, both in
our life together and in the apostolate.
Ideas shared during our Spiritan meeting,
Karachi, April 2006
SPIRITAN RELIGIOUS FOR
FIFTY FIVE YEARS
Brother Edward Gross
These articles appeared first in Echo de la Mission and are reprinted
here with permission from the publishers.
My vocation took root in fertile soil. Following in the footsteps
of Fr. Alphonse Guhmann, six young men from Herrlisheim
entered the Congregation of the Holy Spirit; I was the last of
them to answer the Lord's call.
I entered Neufgrange in 1946 at the age of eleven. After four years
in the apostolic school and two years of apprenticeship in carpentry in the
brothers' postulancy, I did my novitiate at Pire-sur-Seiche (Ille-et Vilaine)
under Fr. Arthur Bohn; then, as a young professed, I continued my for-
mation at Chevilly-Larue (Val de Mame) from 1953 to 1956. This was
followed by two years' military service in Algeria.
On my return, I enrolled for an intense course on masonry, in view
of my later departure on mission: "Before you put in any doors and win-
dows you have to put up some walls" was the explanation given so that
I would accept training in another trade. However, to show that the Lord
does not lack a sense of humour, I ended up after this as a member of the
maintenance team for five years, under the Provincial Bursar. This gave
me a good chance to see around France a bit: Bletterans (Jura), Saint-
Ilan (Cotes d'Armor), Maulevrier (Maine et Loire) and finally Neuf-
At last in 1964 I went to the Indian Ocean; I spent two years in Ro-
drigues, an island 75 kilometres square dependent on Mauritius. To give
you some idea of the size of my "rock", it can fit eight times into Lake
Geneva! It had 28,000 inhabitants, less than in the town of Haguenau.
While in Rodrigues I built an agricultural school.
In 1966 I went to the "big island", Madagascar, which has an area
larger than the whole of France! In the diocese of Majunga (now called
Mahajanga) I had the job of doing all the building repairs.
My missionary life overseas lasted ten years. In 1974 I returned to
France. I worked distributing the magazine Echo de la Mission and the
East-Moselle calendar; I took this up a second time after I had spent
seven years welcoming guests to the Provincial House at rue Lhomond
in Paris. Since last September, because of the closure of the house at
Neufgrange, I continue my work distributing the magazine from the
house of Saint-Florent at Saveme. Distributing the Echo and the cal-
endar means visiting the zelators, the families of Spiritan confreres and
friends of the Congregation. It also means keeping up to date with sub-
scriptions and their renewal. This requires perseverance and a good
deal of tact. It is not easy these days to fmd successors to elderly or
sick zelators. Recently a subscriber asked to meet me. After three in-
terviews she told me that she did not want to continue her subscription.
I could see eventually that she had been through so much suffering - ill-
ness, death of loved ones - that she could see no sense in anything any
However, I want to emphasise that in general I get a good reception,
and this remains a great comfort to me. Many zelators and subscribers
have become good friends who look forward to my visits. Of course, I
spend a lot of time on the road, but it is certainly not time wasted. I have
time to pray for families I have just visited and to prepare myself for
those I am about to meet. This is my way, as a religious, of putting into
practice the words of St. Paul: ''Carry each others 'burdens and you will
carry out the law of Christ". (Gal.6.2.)
I want to say again a sincere word of thanks to all those who show
their interest in mission by means of the distribution and promotion of the
Echo and the calendar. I assure them all of my prayers.
(Taken from Echo de la Mission May/June 2008)
MISSIONARY'S LIFE JOURNEY
Brother Dominique Wack, (48 years a Spiritan religious)
In 1955 I was a border at St. Charles of Schiltigheim, a school run at
the time by the Sisters of All Saints. A visiting Spiritan gave me a
copy of Echo des Missions, as it was then called, and encouraged me
to read it carefully, which I did. It is because of this reading that I decided
to become a religious brother in the Congregation of the Holy Spirit.
In 1964 at the end of my religious and professional formation, I was
appointed chief chef at Neuf grange, with responsibility also for training
young cooks to get their qualifications. On two occasions, the quality of
the formation given was recognized by the county authorities, and twice,
in 1975 and 1977 we won the silver medal in the Eurogast competition
Following the close of this college in 1984 I was appointed to the
Provincial house at 30 rue Lhomond, Paris, a community which always
had a big number of visitors, where I was head cook until 1995. While
here I helped the Emmaus group give out soup to the homeless at vari-
ous metro stations - Chatelet and Place d' Italic in particular - over five
was happy to win a prize in a competition in 1994 for my recipe which
I called "backoafa aux cannelonis".
In 1995, at the same time as I went back to my home region of Al-
sace, I began a new kind of service in the house of Saint Florent in Sav-
eme. I was given the job of promoting and distributing the review Echo
de la Mission and the Spiritan calendar in the east of the country.
I used to visit the zelators and agents for the review in the Lower
Rhine and that part of Moselle close to Saveme; these groups were a
valuable link with the subscribers and deserved encouragement and grat-
itude. Their commitment to mission demanded a lot, but I cannot under-
state my admiration for them, echoed very often by other confreres. I
kept up a regular correspondence with the zelators and subscribers and
it became one of my most important jobs.
In the context of Justice and Peace I am a member of 'Artisans du
Monde' which promotes fair trade and I take part in some inter-confes-
Weekly visits to the sick in Saveme hospital, animation of the Rosary
Team at Dabo (Moselle), organizing the liturgy in our house - all these
are elements of my life as a Spiritan brother. I cannot forget that I was a
cook for thirty one years, so I regularly put my culinary talents at the
service of the community at weekends.
While being a member of a missionary Congregation, I have never
crossed any seas, but I still feel ftilly a missionary. Fr. Libermann him-
self assures me of this in a letter he actually wrote to the brothers:
"Mission does not mean going to far places; it is to be found wher-
ever God puts us. . .You will not do the work in your name; it is God who
sends you and the Holy Spirit who guides you".
Over the years, these words of Fr. Libermann have enlightened and
continue to enlighten my path as a Spiritan brother.
SPIRITAN LIFE AND VOCATION
This text appeared first in theAnima Una no 62 of the EGC "Building on
Rock". If we want to get more brothers in the Congregation, we must
change our attitude.
1 Brothers: Observation:
During the EGC when the question of the brothers was being dealt
with a document produced by Carmo, a brother, on the early his-
tory of the brothers in Libermann's time was eagerly received by
the confreres. There seems to be a desire among members of the Con-
gregation to know more about the history of the brothers. In the synthe-
sis of the reports from the work groups it also seems evident that more
needs to be known about this vocation. There is much anecdotal and
archive material about the brothers in the Congregation but perhaps there
is a need for a more scientific historical work to be written. Could the GC
commission such a work?
• The first point that seems obvious from all the work that has been
done on the question of the brothers is that we want brothers in the
Congregation. "Our Congregation needs brothers for its mission".
• In all of the findings including those of the EGC it is clear that a
number of major obstacles prevent the flourishing of this vocation:
lack of any Spiritan vocations in parts of the world, too much em-
phasis on sacramental, parochial ministry, lack of understanding
of this vocation, strange ecclesiologies in the heads of confreres
who cannot see what ministry a Spiritan who is not ordained can
possibly do, lack of vocations animation in relation to the brother's
vocation, lack of publicity about this way of being Spiritan, cleri-
cal exclusiveness and simply clericalism. From this list it seems
obvious that a serious change of mentality is required especially if
we hope to get the vocation to brotherhood off the ground in the
circumscriptions which enjoy a flourishing of Spiritan vocations,
but there are also practical things that can be done to improve the
situation. The way forward is surely to focus on the positive sug-
gestions coming from the EGC.
• In the first place a Spiritan brother is a Spiritan confrere, a mis-
sionary religious and this needs to be emphasised in a variety of
• giving due solemnity and attention to religious profession (not
only of the brothers);
• celebrating the jubilees of religious profession;
• suppressing high-sounding titles like "Holy Ghost Fathers",
"Peres du St. Esprit", "Padres do Espirito Santo".
It is in the young circumscriptions where we still have many voca-
tions that we must make the greatest effort for the greater visibility
of our "missionary being" which cannot be reduced to the sacra-
mental ministry of the priest. The General Council needs to have a
policy of constantly reminding the superiors and circumscriptions
about the brothers and the need for constant publicity, vocation ani-
mation and general appreciation of the brothers. Since we began our
dialogue with the membership of the Congregation about the broth-
ers, the topic has certainly emerged from the darkness and been given
attention and publicity (in publications and vocation leaflets etc.).
The EGC also asked that "the topic of the brothers would be taken
into account in debates, meetings and circumscription assemblies".
We of the GC can help with this in our visits to circumscriptions,
formation communities, assemblies, chapters etc and in our own pub-
lications. Another proposal from the EGC was that the next meeting
organised by the Congregation dealing with formation should be de-
voted to "the topic of the brother's vocation". It could figure as part
of a wider agenda.
1 . Mission: "Our vision for mission is realised under three forms of
vocation: priest, brother, lay associate." What is clear from the re-
ports of the work groups is that the brother is like any other Spir-
itan confrere at the heart of Spiritan mission which is the mission
of the Church. Negatively it was said that "the parish structure
based on sacramental economy does not help much to give visi-
bility to the brother's vocation". Another affirmation was that "we
need to be clear first of all on the preferences and options to be
made for the mission of the brother in order to then envisage and
propose an adequate formation". It was also suggested to "pro-
pose certain concrete services provided by brothers at present, to
inspire the formation of future brothers". This is a bit vague, but
we can imagine what people have in mind, for example brothers
who are highly competent in professional fields, like medicine,
architecture, engineering etc and who also bring another special
dimension to their work because they are religious and Spiritans.
There is a debate which was not so present in the EGC as to
whether we should have works specifically manned by brothers
which would give a clear visibility to the brothers. This is very
much an African idea at present. Some European brothers get
angry with this idea because it seems to continue the separation of
the brothers and the fathers. It was also seen as desirable to have
brothers in all key positions in the Congregation where they can
function competently including administration and formation.
2. Formation: "We need to propose an adequate missionary, religious
and professional formation." It is true that our formation is meant
to prepare us for lifelong community life and not just the acquisi-
tion of professional skills. "Redefine our cycles of formation in-
cluding a common sector". "Our formation is too rigid, with too
much insistence on direction rather than accompaniment." By
"too rigid" it is not so clear what is meant but it could be that our
formation is too uniform and does not take adequate account of
the diversity of mission situations to which we are called nor the
diversity of talents of those who are called.
3. Community life: The EGC insisted on inclusiveness and a bal-
ance of attention to the vocation of brother and father. The wish
was voiced that "the brothers would know how to position them-
selves as full members (and not members completely apart) of the
Congregation, and that they would be completely integrated with
no complex". This will require us to "combat individualism and
promote equality of economic treatment; mass stipends for ex-
ample are not personal money, but income for the community and
must be put in the common kitty". "Brothers and lay Associates
should be given posts of responsibility in the Congregation. Spec-
ify what is common to all and that which is proper to the priest,
brother and lay associate".
Get inspiration from what other congregations are doing to solve this
As a GC we can make sure that the brother has a clear place in the
preparation and realisation of the next General chapter, ensuring that
there is a brother delegate at least.
Finite di stampare
nel mese di luglio 2009
Scuola Tipografica S. Pio X
Via degli Etruschi, 7
The triangle represents the Trinity: it is coloured red to
accentuate our dedication to the Holy Spirit. The blue
circle signifies Mary who became the mother of Jesus
through the Holy Spirit; therefore one of the points of the
triangle cuts the circle. The green path represents hope.
Thus the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, under the
protection of Mary, is travelling along the path of hope and
Spiritan Life is published in English, French and Portuguese.
Clivo di Cinna, 195